Vol. 12 No. 2 - September, 2009

Creating a curriculum to engage and excite our learners and educators

UMMS Technology and Media Services
Dean Flotte and medical students (left to right) Meghan Shea, Aimee Falardeau and Bharath Nath discuss the development of UMMS Learning Communities.

Students and faculty alike are excited about the changes planned for the School of Medicine’s new Learner-centered Integrated Curriculum (LInC). Seasoned faculty made comments like, “I wish I could return to medical school and be part of this,” as they moved between sessions at the LInC Retreat held in June at the Hoagland Pincus Conference Center. The retreat provided an opportunity for 125 educators, students and senior administrators to continue to participate in the decision-making as LInC settles into its third and most critical phase of curriculum reform—detailed design and implementation. The day was structured around 13 small group interactive sessions focusing on key curricular topics such as case development, student assessment, course evaluation, clinical experiences, learning communities, MD/PhD students and joint course leadership. In evaluating the retreat, attendees used terms such as “thought-provoking,” ”innovative,” “collegial” and “inspiring.” One faculty member wrote, “This retreat brought the process plan and goals together. It was very impressive to experience the commitment and energy among the participants.”

“The strength of this process grows from the broad involvement of the educational community and is rooted in core principles that are informed by extensive institutional self-study, external evaluation and national undergraduate medical education priorities,” said LInC Trustees Chair Melissa Fischer, MD, MEd, associate professor of medicine. The LInC Trustees comprise representative curriculum experts from the basic and clinical sciences, medical students, UMMS alumni, at-large faculty and administration and are charged with overseeing the development of an educational program that moves beyond the traditional departmentally segmented curriculum to meet the needs of students in an ever-changing medical environment. Completing her first year of leading this group, Dr. Fischer noted, “The energy and enthusiasm of those engaged in this process is infectious . . . I am inspired by their commitment to our principles including integrated and interdisciplinary teaching, sequencing and prioritization of content and building excitement for the lifelong questioning and learning that drives medical science and medicine.”

"The integration of clinical context into the foundational material serves several important goals.

First, by making the information more relevant to patient care and thus more significant to learners’ life goals, it will undoubtedly enhance the learner’s retention of the material. Second, it will provide opportunities for critical thinking, the kind of analytical application of information that is the basis for good medical judgment. In the long run, this is considerably more valuable than rote memorization. Finally, if approached in small group settings, this type of learning will provide opportunities to model the type of cooperative teamwork that underlies great health care, much more so than the competitive spirit that sometimes motivates students at the pre-med level."

Dean Terence Flotte

Consistent with the goal of creating a more integrated, competency-based curriculum, LInC courses are exemplified by shared, multidisciplinary leadership and more integrated basic and clinical science content. Each course has a minimum of two co-leaders (see box), a model that builds on the leadership of department chairs who nominate course co-directors for review by the LInC Trustees. The trustees then make recommendations for the dean’s consideration with input from the Steering Committee as appropriate. At the LInC Retreat, Dean Terence R. Flotte, MD, professor of pediatrics and molecular genetics & microbiology, enthusiastically announced the co-leaders of three courses, and others have since been named.

Interested in learning more about LInC? Visit http://inside.umassmed.edu/epc/index.aspx where updates are posted regularly, or contact LInC Project Manager Tricia Droney, MPH, at x6-4267 or via global e-mail.

 LInC courses
 Co-course leaders
Building Working Cells & TissuesMary O’Brien, MD (medicine)  & Bill Royer, PhD (biochemistry & molecular pharmacology)
Cancer ConceptsJames Liebmann, MD (medicine) & Rick Pieters, MD (radiation oncology)
Principles of PharmacologyMark Dershwitz, MD, PhD (anesthesiology) & Charles Sagerstrom, PhD (biochemistry & molecular pharmacology)
Host Defense & BloodLeslie Berg, PhD (pathology) & Robert Weinstein, MD (medicine)
Genetics and Population HealthJeroan Allison, MD, MS ( quantitative health sciences) & Jeanne Lawrence, PhD (cell biology)
InfectionsJennifer Daly, MD ( medicine) & Tony Poteete, PhD (molecular genetics & microbiology)
Development, Structure &  FunctionJames Crandall, PhD (cell biology); Krista Johansen, MD (cell biology); Julie Jonassen, PhD (physiology); & Daniel Schwartz, MD (radiology)
Learning CommunitiesMike Ennis, MD (family medicine & community health)  & Dave Hatem, MD (medicine)