Frequently Asked Questions: Overview

M.D. Curriculum Transformation

What will society need from physicians over the next 20 to 30 years? Imagine the future.

Why transform our M.D. curriculum? The health care landscape is changing. Our goal is to boldly and innovatively bridge the growing divide between how physicians are trained and the needs of society in this future landscape.

How is the health care landscape changing? Reform, changing delivery models, integration of new treatments (such as those stemming from genetics advances), the push to contain costs and a new focus on prevention and wellness are among several accelerating trends. Simultaneously, an explosion of information technology and tools is transforming both health care and education at all levels.

At its broadest level, what is the purpose of the initiative? The M.D. Curriculum Transformation process is ensuring that OHSU continues to educate and graduate the types of physicians needed by Oregon – across discipline, geography, patient population, cultural competency, and attributes linked to an ability to provide high quality health care and community leadership in the evolving future health care landscape.

Is there something wrong with the existing M.D. curriculum? No. The current curriculum is strong and produces exceptional graduates. However, in this rapidly changing environment, our responsibility is to look forward and ask what society will need from us in the future, to imagine the future, and to help create it. This initiative builds on our existing strong curriculum and ensures our graduates are aligned with the health care trajectory.

Has OHSU ever undertaken this type of curriculum revision before? Yes. In 1994, the School of Medicine created and implemented a revision of our M.D. curriculum. At that time, we took unique aspects of OHSU and Oregon and made them part of the then-new curriculum. We are taking those same steps now.

Are other medical schools doing this too? Many, if not most, medical schools across the country are in some phase of curriculum transformation. Like OHSU, the community of academic medicine acknowledges and embraces its leadership role on this topic.

What do our students think of this initiative? Students – like all of us – understand that our health care systems are changing. Student input is being provided through a number of channels. We're also seeking input from recent graduates, who provide a unique and timely perspective on their educational experience.

Is curriculum transformation linked to the new Collaborative Life Sciences Building? No. The Curriculum Transformation initiative would take place without the CLSB. However, the new building provides an important opportunity to consider our future curriculum with this state-of-the-art facility in mind.

What is the timeline? We intend to implement the first year of the new curriculum with the M.D. class entering in 2014. Full implementation will require four years. Enhancements to the clinical experiences (what we now call clerkships) will begin in January 2016.

OHSU is nationally known for primary care education. Will that change? No. Throughout this change process, our commitment to primary care, rural Oregon and underserved communities will be – as it has always been – unshakable. A transformed M.D. curriculum will enhance that commitment by identifying new and innovative educational opportunities for students to focus on underserved communities.

Have themes already emerged that are guiding the transformation initiative? Yes. Three themes have emerged that permeate most aspects of the curriculum. First, the new curriculum will be competency-based, not time-based, with an educational program customized to each student. This means some students – such as a student who is already a physician assistant – may complete medical school in less than four years. Second, the health care landscape of the future will be data-driven (patient panel/population analyses, genetic sequencing, costs control, for example) and the new curriculum will include a focus on related skills sets, such as informatics. Third, the new curriculum will produce graduates skilled at self-assessment and able to continually advance their own expertise, allowing them to lead health care into a new era of continuous improvement.

I want to participate. How can I find out more? Our website,, is full of information for our community partners and others interested in this process. Please also email the School of Medicine Dean's office anytime with questions or comments at

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