Med School postpones major curriculum overhaul

Med2010 reforms will be dramatically scaled back.
April 28, 2009

A planned major overhaul of the Medical School’s curriculum will be largely scaled back due to financial constraints, according to Medical School officials.
Components of the MED2010 initiative, which has been in the works the last few years, will still be incorporated into the education of medical students entering in 2010, said Dr. Lindsey Henson, vice dean for education in the Medical School. But the stark program changes will not be put into place as planned, she said.
Originally the brain child of Dean Dr. Deborah Powell , MED2010 was the product of numerous faculty consultations and pilot programs. The proposed changes would have completely altered the way the University of Minnesota educates new physicians.
At the heart of MED2010 is teaching and evaluating medical students based on competencies, said Dr. Aaron Friedman , chair of the department of pediatrics and a member of the Medical School educational council, which oversees curriculum.
The updated curriculum would look at “how much knowledge you have, but also include your ability to perform technical tasks,” he said.
One major change that will still be implemented is assigning a faculty adviser to a student in the first year, rather than the third.
“The advisor really has a responsibility with the student of keeping track of their progress,” Friedman said. “It’s not just a grades-based progress because you’re looking at competencies.”
Only a handful of medical schools around the country have that degree of hands-on, competency-based advising, Henson said.
The Flexible M.D. program, which was piloted in 2005 as part of the MED2010 roll-out, will continue to be offered as an alternative to students wishing to pursue their medical degree in conjunction with outside educational opportunities.
Dr. Rebecca Trotzky-Sirr , a recent Medical School graduate, took four-and-a-half years to finish her medical education, instead of the traditional four, which included a year living in Venezuela working on and researching public health systems.
“It’s a really unique opportunity among medical schools to have that degree of academic freedom, to bring in a bunch of different disciplines and interests,” he said.
Although Trotzky-Sirr will not directly benefit from the MED2010 initiative, many of the suggested changes have been piloted in courses she’s taken.
“We knew the work we were doing, helping the University to prepare for MED2010, was something we were leaving behind as kind of a legacy,” she said, “and it was less something we would directly benefit from, but something we were all excited to participate in.”
Another factor influencing the changes to MED2010’s rollout is the Medical School’s upcoming accreditation visit from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, Henson said.
The visit is likely to come in the 2011-2012 school year, she said, and the Medical School didn’t want to be still rolling out the second wave of the changes in the middle of the visit.
Instead, the changes to the curriculum will be phased in on top of the existing curriculum, rather than replacing it outright.
The Duluth campus will continue, as originally planned, with a replacement of their current curriculum, she said.
Second-year medical student Hannah Shacter said historically she had been frustrated with the idea of MED2010 because she felt all suggestions and criticisms of the curriculum were being held off for the major changes, which would come too late to affect her education.
Shacter said one of her classes this year was a pilot for MED2010 that put students from all four years together for small group learning.
“It’s hard to compare to other classes because it was so different,” she said, “but I think there’s a lot of value in exposing students to people in the other years.”
She said she feels one of the proposed changes, to introduce patient contact to students earlier, would have greatly benefitted her education.
“I think it really puts a lot of learning in perspective,” Shacter said. “It’s easier to focus on why we’re actually in med school if you’re actually seeing patients.”
Friedman said the biggest impact to students will be in how they are evaluated on technical skills, like physical exams and recording patient histories. The expectations will be “much more rigorous,” he said.
In the past, students developed those skills more in their clinical training and residencies.
Other topics, such as how health care systems work, were simply taught on the job and in residency training.
A memo regarding the MED2010 changes from Senior Vice President for Health Sciences Dr. Frank Cerra and Powell is expected to be sent to faculty and students sometime this week.

— Emma L. Carew is a senior staff reporter

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