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OHSU School of Medicine Awarded $1.3 Million To Enhance Medical Curriculum

06/21/06  Portland, Ore.

OHSU School of Medicine awarded highly competitive National Institutes of Health grant to add more social and behavioral education to curriculum

Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine is one of nine medical schools in the nation to receive $1.3 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to enhance behavioral and social science education for physicians-in-training.

Changes to the OHSU medical school curriculum will focus on six key "domains": mind-body medicine, patient behavior, physician role and behavior, doctor-patient interactions, social and cultural issues, and health care policy and economics.

Students will be taught better communication, learn psychosocial skills in dealing with patient needs and behaviors, learn more about the social and cultural contexts of their patients, come to a better understanding of the mind-body connection in diagnosis and treatment, and will be asked to be more conscious of and reflective upon their roles as professionals.

The NIH grants were prompted by a 2004 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report that indicated improving medical training in the behavioral and social sciences can significantly improve health care outcomes. William Toffler, M.D., professor of family medicine, OHSU School of Medicine, is principal investigator for the five-year grant, which draws on the expertise of faculty in 10 separate OHSU departments.

"This NIH grant offers talented faculty the time and funding needed to infuse new energy and content into our four-year curriculum. We anticipate that OHSU residents and faculty as well as medical students and their future patients will reap the benefits," said Toffler.

According to the IOM report, titled "Improving Medical Education: Enhancing the Behavioral and Social Science Content of Medical School Curricula," roughly half of all deaths in the United States are linked to behavioral and social factors, with the leading causes of preventable death and disease being smoking and sedentary lifestyle, along with poor dietary habits and alcohol consumption. Physicians should be able to "recognize, understand, and effectively respond to patients as individuals, not just to their symptoms," the report states. It also suggests the National Board of Medical Examiners cover behavioral and social sciences in the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination.

"This important funding permits the OHSU School of Medicine to achieve an even greater emphasis on teaching the essential psychosocial aspects as well as the art of medicine, for which we have been a nationally recognized leader during the last 15 years," said Edward Keenan, Ph.D., associate dean for medical education, professor of physiology and pharmacology in the OHSU School of Medicine, and co-investigator on the grant.

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