Message from Dean Richardson: An update on M.D. Curriculum Transformation

March 28, 2013

Dean RichardsonDear School of Medicine Community:

Our associate dean for education notes the average lecture attendance is about 50 percent of the M.D. student body. (In talking with deans across the nation, it turns out this is not an unusual fact.) Student debt and tuition at OHSU and across the nation are at all time highs. Increasingly, patients will turn to teams of providers to deliver high quality and effective health care. Oregon and the nation are in the midst of a radical transformation of the health care system. We are on the cusp of new cures and treatments stemming from genetics discoveries.

What do these seemingly unrelated facts tell us?

We need to take a hard look at our educational models – at OHSU and everywhere – to be sure they are relevant for today and tomorrow, and will continue to deliver maximum value to our students and society. During this era of health system change, we must seize the once-in-a-lifetime systemic openings to integrate and insert education – at all levels and across all professions – into the future health care landscape innovatively, creatively and effectively.

That is exactly what OHSU is doing.

Successful health care reform depends on a workforce able to embrace, lead and sustain change. Our M.D. Curriculum Transformation initiative will help produce that physician workforce. Together with our partners, the medical school is answering a basic question: What will society need from physicians over the next 20 to 30 years? In October 2012, we held an all-school M.D. Curriculum Transformation retreat to kick off the initiative. Since then, I am pleased to report we've made good progress.

Thus far, the Transformation Steering Committee has integrated diverse information from many sources – faculty, student, alumni and community members – to develop a draft curriculum template. The draft template builds on the existing strong curriculum, but also provides new elements designed to deliver the results needed for the future. In particular, in the later years, we are striving to be more student-centric and adaptable to developing unique student interests and skills, to focus on lifetime learning and team-based health care, and to embrace the potential of technology in a future health care delivery, among other attributes. We are also focusing our appraisals of learning on competency attained (rather than time spent). The latter means, for example, an entering student with significant clinical experience, such as a physician assistant, could potentially earn an M.D. degree in fewer than four years.

A key element of the draft template developed by the Committee is to ensure we continue to enhance our national reputation for excellence in primary care education, while also ensuring we are able to attract students with a spectrum of interests in other areas. For instance, we are currently discussing expanding the number and type of clinical experiences outside Portland and in rural Oregon, as well as establishing new experiences within Portland's underserved communities.

The M.D. Curriculum Transformation initiative will make OHSU an even better medical school and will provide innovative and knowledgeable physician-leaders aligned with Oregon's and the nation's health care future. You can learn much more about our progress on this initiative at the links provided in the news article below, including two videos. Developing a new curriculum entails a great deal of work. I want to express my appreciation to the many faculty members, students, staff, community leaders and others who are constructively engaged in this process. There is much more work ahead of us, and we've made a great start. Thank you.

Best Regards,

Mark Richardson

Mark Richardson, MD, MBA
Dean, OHSU School of Medicine
President, Faculty Practice Plan