Integrating Basic Science Without Integrating Basic Scientists: Reconsidering the Place of Individual Teachers in Curriculum Reform

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Abstract

The call for integration of the basic and clinical sciences plays prominently in recent conversations about curricular change in medical education; however, history shows that, like other concepts related to curricular reform, integration has been continually revisited, leading to incremental change but no meaningful transformation. To redress this cycle of “change without difference,” the medical education community must reexamine the approach that dominates medical education reform efforts and explore alternative perspectives that may help to resolve the cyclical “problem” of recommending but not effecting integration. To provide a different perspective on implementing integration, the authors of this Perspective look to the domain of educational change as an approach to examining the transitions that occur within complex and evolving environments. This area of literature both acknowledges the multiple levels involved in change and emphasizes the need not only to address systemic structure but also to prioritize individuals during times of transition. The struggle to implement curricular integration in medical education may stem from the fact that reform efforts appear to focus largely on transformation at the level of curricular structure as opposed to considering what learning needs to occur at each level of change and highlighting the individual as the educational change literature suggests. To bring appropriate attention to the place of individual educators, especially basic scientists, the medical education community should explore how the mandate to integrate clinically relevant material may impact these faculty and the teaching of their domains.

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