Medical Students’ Perspectives on Implementing Curriculum Change at One Institution

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Abstract

Training physicians to be effective practitioners throughout their careers begins in undergraduate medical education with particular focus on self-directed inquiry, professional and interprofessional development, and competency-based assessment. A select number of medical schools are restructuring their curricula by placing the student at the center of content delivery to enhance the learning experience. While this restructuring may benefit the adult learner, administrators often make assumptions about how students will perceive and respond to such innovative and unfamiliar educational concepts. This can create a disconnect between students and their curriculum. Administrative mindfulness of student experiences is needed to ensure successful implementation of curricular change, facilitate the transition from old to new modalities, and train competent physician graduates.

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (VUSM) recently completed a curriculum update, and student representatives have been essential participants in the transition, from the earliest stages in preplanning to rapid-cycle feedback as the curriculum runs. Two of the authors are members of VUSM’s Student Curriculum Committee, which facilitates gathering and relaying student feedback to the administration. Drawing from their experiences, five specific considerations to address and manage when implementing student-centered curricular change are presented: (1) Communicate the rationale, (2) acknowledge anxiety, (3) adjust extracurricular leadership roles, (4) manage “The Bulge” of learners in the clinical environment, and (5) foster ongoing collaboration of students and administrators. For each consideration, examples and proposed solutions are provided.

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