Big Changes in the Medical School Curriculum

April 26, 2022 by

by Jeremy Middleton, MD

On October 4, the University of Virginia School of Medicine will turn 203 years old! A lot has changed since 1819, and over the past two years we have seen some significant alterations to our medical school curriculum. These curriculum changes have been in process for quite some time, but have been most evident during the pre-clinical years. Over the past two years, though, there has been bigger transitions in the Clerkship year, called Phase 2, and fourth year, called Phase 3.

The biggest changes of Phase 2 has been condensing the overall Clerkship to run over 10 months from January through mid-October and the integration of INOVA as a regional campus.  Thankfully, the overall timeframe for the Pediatric clerkship has remained six weeks, but other Clerkships such as Internal Medicine and Surgery have seen a decrease in Clerkship weeks.  Another big adjustment is that students will be taking both Step 1 and Step 2 USMLE exams after their Clerkship year.

The next big change will be seen in the fourth year, which starts the January after their Clerkship and runs for approximately 16 months until graduation.  The purpose of the lengthening of fourth year is to allow for students to have a more individualized learning experience once deciding on a career path. There are required components of Phase 3 including four weeks of emergency medicine, two weeks of population medicine, four weeks of an acting internship, and four weeks of critical care medicine. Although our NICU and PICU have historically had elective students, this transition to a 4th year requirement has come with it some specific learning objectives created by the phase 3 course Director, Kathryn Mutter, MD, MPH. In addition to critical care learning objectives, students will also have a variety of required clinical encounters, clinical skills and entrustable professional activities (EPAs) to complete.  Although a similar experience to our previous ICU electives, or intensivists will now be seeing more requests for fourth-year EPA’s, as well as a focused attention on the required clinical skills and encounters.

Integration of these curriculum changes will be just in time for our eight-year Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) site visit.  The last site visit was completed in October 2014, after which we maintained our full accreditation. Our next three day site visit will start on March 19, 2023.  Already, the School of Medicine, led by Senior Associate Dean of Education Meg Keeley, MD, has started planning for the site visit and additional information can be found on the School of Medicine website. This LCME accreditation process require an intense self-study by the institution prior to the actual site visit and is a way to maintain high standards of medical education across the country. Bill Wilson provided a great overview of the process in a Monthly Matters eight years ago!

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