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School of Medicine Curriculum Evolves to Meet Needs of Millennials

Learn team
(left to right) LEARN team leader, Latha Chandran, MD, MPH, Vice Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education, Professor of Pediatrics, with two medical students and Feroza Daroowalla, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine, Department of Medicine, Adjunct Faculty in the Program for Public Health
(left to right) LEARN team leader, Latha Chandran, MD, MPH, Vice Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education, Professor of Pediatrics, with two medical students and Feroza Daroowalla, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine, Department of Medicine, Adjunct Faculty in the Program for Public Health

Students entering their first year of medical school at the Stony Brook University School of Medicine in August 2014 will have a very different experience than their predecessors when the LEARN (Learning focused, Experiential, Adaptive, Rigorous and Novel) curriculum launches this summer.

The LEARN curriculum is designed to enhance active learning, help our medical school students establish an earlier sense of their professional identity and develop all the expected physician competencies in an integrated and contextual manner. This includes allowing for individualized learning experiences with access to unprecedented resources for learning.

The biggest change is that LEARN curriculum will consist of three distinct phases as opposed to the traditional four distinct years. The foundational phase will be 18 months. This phase includes a biomedical building blocks course which lays the basic foundations for the integrated organ systems based pathophysiology courses. Phase II is the primary clinical phase and will be one year long. And the advanced clinical phase will be about 16 months long.

The genesis for curriculum reform came in 2011, when a Curriculum Evaluation Working Group (CEWG) of more than 100 students, faculty and members of the administration at Stony Brook University School of Medicine was established to address faculty concerns regarding attendance and learning. Over the next two years, CEWG conducted visits to accredited medical schools to learn specific aspects of their curricula.

Of the 14 guiding principles of LEARN that were developed by CEWG and approved by the School of Medicine Curriculum Committee, shifting the focus to student learning as opposed to faculty teaching was key. Students will have the primary responsibility to learn, and the faculty’s role will be to facilitate.

“In addition to ensuring that our graduate students do well on standardized national examinations, we recognized the importance of offering opportunities to them to individualize and self direct their learning,” said Latha Chandran, MD, MPH, Vice Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education, Professor of Pediatrics, who led the team responsible for the three-year discussions, development and implementation of the LEARN curriculum.

Dr. Chandran’s co-leaders were Feroza Daroowalla, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Department of Medicine and adjunct faculty in the Program for Public Health; and Howard Fleet, PhD, Assistant Dean for Curriculum, Associate Professor, Vice Chair for Education, Pathology.

Five themes will run across the foundational, primary clinical and advanced clinical phases of LEARN: patient- and family-centered care, evidence-based care, patient safety and quality care, ethical and professional care, and health promotion and preventive care.

To make students responsible for their own success, peer assessments will be an important component. In 2013, longitudinal learning communities were instituted to begin serving as a venue for faculty student advising/mentoring relationships and provide a venue for peer assessment and feedback skills.

Clinical clerkships will start in March of the second year of medical school, allowing room in the fourth year for more subspecialties, before students finally decide on their career path. During Phase II, there will be four 12-week blocks of clinical clerkships. Interspersed between each of these blocks is a “translation pillar” to facilitate reinforcement of basic sciences, new interdisciplinary curricular themes and School of Medicine competencies. The goal is to integrate and provide a continuum for cutting-edge biomedical medicine and translational medicine that will have an impact in their clinical environment.

Additionally, skills training courses will be offered during each of the transitions to medical school, clinical care and residency to enable students to understand their roles, responsibilities and expectations prior to entering each phase.

As LEARN rolls out, learner outcomes will be monitored, and course and curricular structure will be reviewed after the first iteration to modify the curriculum as needed.

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