The Yale School of Medicine is implementing major changes to its curriculum, which will significantly alter the educational experience of first- and second-year students.
This year, the school introduced wide-ranging curricular changes in the ways medicine is taught on both the scientific and hands-on levels. A team of medical school administrators, including Medical School Dean David Kessler, debriefed the Yale Corporation on this new approach to teaching at its February meeting.
The goals of these changes are to improve students’ ability to interpret scientific data and interact with and treat patients.
Dr. Herbert Chase, assistant dean for education at the medical school, said the school established a new “dual model” for some first- and second-year students, combining leaner core curriculums with opportunities to analyze the cutting edge of their given fields.
This year, four medical school departments — Pharmacology, Cellular and Molecular Physiology, Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, and Cell Biology — are testing Chase’s new dual model, but Medical School officials said all basic science departments will sign on within the next year.
“By next year, all the departments in the basic sciences will be operating in that dual format,” Chase said.
The medical school has scaled down core classes in the four pilot departments to exclude medical facts and terminology that are considered less pertinent to students.
With the time saved from decreased class hours, students engage in a variety of activities, like attending seminars or joining journal clubs. In these seminars, some of the school’s most famous professors teach the students how to interpret data and diagnose patients.
Chase said the medical school made these changes in part to cut down on the vast amount of terminology that can easily overwhelm first- and second-year students.
“Medicine has the daunting task of introducing 15-20,000 new words” to a student’s vocabulary, said Chase, who was instrumental in implementing these changes.
Dr. Ralph Horwitz, a professor of internal medicine, said he is satisfied with the progress of the revamped curriculum. Horwitz teaches “Clinical Reasoning,” a seminar with the goal of helping students manage patient case studies.
“The attendance has been good, and the discussion has been vigorous,” Horwitz said.
Horwitz said his students are excited to learn practical skills early in their medical school careers.
In the class, students examine real-life case studies and then make decisions regarding treatment options. In one vignette, students decide whether to test a middle-aged man for prostate cancer. Students must determine if the use of screening agents like the prostate specific antigen, which can detect the disease in individuals whose cases may not be curable, should be mandated.
Horwitz said students have reacted positively to the new dual system.
“They love the fact that there are more intimate, small-group sessions,” he said.