Two years ago, the American Medical Association awarded a $1.1 million grant to the University’s Medical School to implement comprehensive curricular changes. This year, the changes are going into effect.

Rajesh Mangrulkar, associate dean for medical student education at the University, is leading the way in implementing the changes.

The new curriculum exposes students to the clinical setting as early as their first year and teaches them to have a greater understanding of the sociology and humanitarian side of medicine.

Mangrulkar said these changes represent an initiative to improve the traditional medical school curriculum, which often consists of teaching basic science and anatomy for the first two years, then clinical science for the last two years.

In line with this vision, one of the programs the Medical School launched this year was an “initial clinical experience” for its first-year students. This program allows students to see firsthand how healthcare teams come together to provide good patient care, Mangrulkar said.

“Before, shadowing doctors and being in the clinic during the first year of med school was something you had to arrange for yourself,” said Charlie Frank, a first-year Medical School student, said. “But now, every other week we are in a clinic, shadowing a diverse healthcare team that not only includes doctors but includes other important healthcare professionals such as nursing assistants and social workers.”

In addition, a new “doctoring” course has been established for first-year students, where they will learn about clinical and interpersonal skills in medicine in an intimate setting with two faculty members who will work with them for their entire four years. 

Lastly, the Medical School has unveiled the MHome learning community for all of its students. The program divides students into houses, and each house has a director, faculty members, and students of all medical school years, Mangrulkar said.

This allows students to work within a smaller community, plan community service events and focus on integrating their learning across the curriculum.

Ed Hur, a second-year Medical School student, said MHome provides a great opportunity for older Medical School students to mentor younger ones.

“The idea of the MHome is to bridge the gap between first-, second-, third- and fourth-year med students,” Hur said. “We often have meet and greets with the first-year students, where older students like myself can give them advice on things such as research opportunities.”

Facility renovations accompany the curriculum changes. Among these is the Taubman Health Sciences Library, which underwent a $55 million renovation. The new library was designed to bolster the improved model of medical school education.

“The new library supports team-based learning that focuses on problem solving,” Mangrulkar said. “This will support the idea of students being change agents in society.”

Curricular changes are not being introduced all at once, Mangrulkar said.

For example, the “Paths of Excellence” programs that were designed to allow students to focus on a specific area of medicine are being introduced gradually. Initially optional, they will now become mandatory for the incoming Medical School class.

Frank said initial feedback from the curricular changes has been positive overall.

“The way medicine has been taught for a long time is now outdated,” he said. “The best doctors of the future are those that not only have a strong basic science understanding, but also have excellent clinical skills, teamwork skills and a social understanding. Teaching these skills was nonexistent in medical school education before, but is now at the forefront of the new curriculum.” 

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