Message from Dean Richardson: Maintaining excellence - MD Curriculum Transformation

Dean Richardson05/21/12  Portland, OR

Dear School of Medicine Community:

What will society need from physicians and health care professionals over the next 20 to 30 years? In 1994, the OHSU School of Medicine answered that question by implementing a major revision of our MD curriculum. The curriculum balanced the scientific basis of medicine with early clinical experience, and emphasized independent, life-long learning and problem-solving skills.

Our focus on what was then a cutting-edge approach to education earned us a national reputation. Over the past two decades, however, the external landscape continued to evolve and now is doing so at an ever-faster pace: health care reform, changing delivery models, a new focus on the rapid clinical applications of research, and an explosion of information technology and associated tools – from smart phones to the electronic health record. It's again time to ask (and answer) the same types of questions.

Academic medicine is at a cross-road; while there are many challenges before us, there are an equal number of new opportunities. One of those opportunities is a reconsideration of our MD curriculum to ensure it matches the external evolution and is structured to produce graduates who will lead a transformation of our state and nation's health care systems.

In response, the OHSU School of Medicine is embarking on an exciting initiative to transform our Undergraduate Medical Education (UME) curriculum, while retaining the best of its current design. Broadly, our goals are to prepare health care professionals for the changing health care delivery and discovery environments, and to do so in ways that continue placing emphasis on self-directed and also include life-long and interprofessional education. Equally important, our learning environment can – must – evolve to embrace the abilities and preferences of contemporary students through the creative use of technology and by seizing the educational opportunities newly opened up by this technology.

I've asked Leslie Kahl, MD, Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives, to lead an initial planning process that will help us identify an organizational framework to undertake this initiative. Our recently concluded, and highly inclusive, LCME self-study process provides a solid foundation on which to begin.

Dr. Kahl is now reaching out to our faculty, students and others to gather input, and has appointed a Curriculum Transformation Steering Committee to guide this first phase: Pat Brunett, Tracy Bumsted, Allison Fryer, Beth Habecker, Jeff Kraakevik, Molly Osborne, Bill Skach and Don Spight.

Some of you have asked me if this transformation initiative is spurred by the move to the Collaborative Life Sciences Building in 2014. The short answer is no – our move to the new building does not mandate curriculum transformation. However, the move does provide a natural opportunity to evolve in this important area, and lends momentum.

I am excited about this initiative and our success depends on the full involvement of our faculty and students in this initiative. Curriculum transformation also presents a good opportunity to connect with our alumni and other partners, including clerkship sites and health systems for example, as well as our many OHSU partners, to bring multiple perspectives into our planning process.

This is only the very beginning of a process that will involve many people and take several years – and one that can have a constructive effect on much of what we do in the School of Medicine. Just as we now look back on 1994 as a pivotal moment in our MD program, 20 or 30 years from now, this will also be seen as a moment when we focused our commitment and knowledge on the future and once again took a leadership role in education and, by extension, met the health care needs of Oregonians.

For those of you on campus, we've set up an internal news site to share information and gather input about our education mission generally, and about this initiative, specifically. More information will be forthcoming for all our audiences in the coming weeks and months. I welcome your thoughts on this topic.

Best Regards,

Mark Richardson

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