With just two months to go before the UNLV School of Medicine hears if it can accept its charter class, the school’s curriculum team is completing its final steps. “The entire four years of the medical school’s curriculum for its 2017 inaugural class is nearly mapped out. Course topics, objectives, and instructors have been identified, and each class has been scheduled by day and time in the curriculum mapping software,” says Corrin Sullivan, the medical school’s director of curriculum.
The school’s curriculum must meet the requirements of the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), the U.S. accreditation body for programs leading to the M.D. degree. Its requirements ensure the school’s graduates are ready for the next stage of physician training — residency programs — and provide a robust foundation for lifelong learning and proficient medical care.
A team appointed by the LCME visited the medical school in July to assess the school’s readiness to accept its first class. In its initial findings, the survey site team cited as one its strengths is the medical school’s “thoughtful and innovative curriculum that is well-integrated with the school's mission.”
The school’s curriculum team and 11-member curriculum committee worked to develop an innovative educational program that exceeds the requirements of the LCME. Dr. Ellen Cosgrove, vice dean for academic affairs and education is especially proud community engagement has driven the school’s curriculum development. The LCME requires a medical school to offer students the opportunity for service learning. UNLV School of Medicine chose to go beyond that requirement.
“Early on we made a commitment we'd require every student to participate in service learning. And by that I mean identifying what are the biggest social or public health issues in Las Vegas; identifying community organizations and people who are working actively to address these issues; and having our students become a meaningful part of their organizations and solutions,” Cosgrove explained. “We will have one of the most community-engaged curriculums in the United States."
The team has identified more than 80 community organizations for students to learn and work with to solve social and public health issues; and the school’s problem-based curriculum has patient cases identified through 2019.
“Our curriculum is designed to produce students who are not only knowledgeable about the community and local service organizations, but also knowledgeable about their future patients and what contributes to a person’s health,” Sullivan said.
Another important educational objective: relationship building. UNLV’s medical students will learn through problem- and case-based learning in small groups so they develop the relationship skills needed for delivering medical care.
Sullivan said, “all 60 students at UNLV School of Medicine will use this approach from day one. Problem-based learning is different from traditional approaches where students sit in lecture halls and have limited participation, especially during basic science instruction.
“At UNLV, they will work in small groups to collaborate and brainstorm about the patient’s medical problem. As a team, they will assess the medical condition and symptoms, identify the research, resources and information needed to better understand the condition, and determine the diagnosis and possible treatment approaches.”
In the coming months more detail will be added to the curriculum, such as the specific materials required for each class, class assignments, and the content of each group session. The curriculum team is now working on “the customization of cases and experiences to ensure that content is well-presented and comprehensively integrated throughout the curriculum,” Sullivan said.
Once the school welcomes its first class, the curriculum will go through continual improvements. Four students will be added to the curriculum committee to ensure direct student participation in curriculum decisions.
Ultimately, the full realization of the plan rests with the students. Cosgrove likens the progress made on the curriculum as going from dream to plan. But she said there’s more to do. “Now we’re eager for the day that we start enrolling students."