How medical students can bring about curricular change

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Traditionally, medical school committees have been charged with curricular improvement and modification, while medical students have had little or no involvement in reform efforts. However, medical students can sometimes be ahead of faculty in recognizing new topics that need to be covered, and their energy, commitment, and vision can be a very important impetus for curricular change. In 1995-96, as part of a general curricular restructuring effort, faculty at Dartmouth Medical School began to design and offer new electives in innovative topics, with the idea that electives might become part of the required curriculum if the material presented in them were deemed to be “core.” Students were invited to organize their own electives if a topic in which they were interested was not being covered. The authors (two were second-year medical students and the third was their faculty sponsor) developed an elective in women's health. This paper describes the development and implementation of this elective, and the process by which the course was later made part of the required curriculum at Dartmouth. The success of the authors' efforts highlights the crucial role students can play in reforming medical curricula.

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