The future of medical education: laying the foundations


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"As the health care expectations of Canadians evolve, we must ensure our curriculum is responsive to the needs of our students and prepares them to meet needs of today, and tomorrow,” says Dr. Marcus Law, Director of Foundations & Academic Innovation.   

The development of the Foundations Curriculum is one of the most significant changes we have made to the way we deliver medical education over the past two decades. The curriculum renewal encompasses the first two years of the MD Program and will be launched for first-year students entering the program in the 2016-2017 academic year.

“The Foundations Curriculum integrates the basic sciences, social science and population health with learning about illness and its management,” explains Dr. Law, who is leading the renewal process together with Dr. Pier Bryden, Director of Preclerkship and Dr. Martin Schreiber, Director of Curriculum. “Our new approach promotes learning in various contexts and across themes with community health activities as a core aspect of the program.”

In addition to content being delivered through lectures, it is thematically linked and integrated across multiple learning activities that involve various modalities such as small, expert-led group seminars, case-based learning, small-group workshops, community placements, and clinical skills sessions. To enable greater depth of content exploration, students will be introduced to content through online materials and other resources prior to their classroom sessions.

Students tell us why they're excited about the Foundations Curriculum

This fall, first- and second-year students had the opportunity to preview and provide feedback on this approach by taking part in case-based learning, which involves the application of knowledge to virtual patients demonstrating real-life clinical problems. “Engaging with the patient cases in a group often made it feel like we were working through a real clinical encounter with a team,” says 1T8 student Samik Doshi of his experience. “The formal lectures gave us the foundational information to begin working through the cases, which not only reinforced the information, but allowed us to apply it and take it further.  The use of online materials also enabled us to tailor our learning as medical students, so we could spend more or less time on content depending on our own unique learning needs and individual goals.” 

In parallel with the curriculum redesign, and by drawing upon evidence-informed medical education scholarship, we are also working to introduce a new comprehensive approach to student assessment that aligns with the learning goals of the new curriculum. “Programmatic assessment takes a holistic approach that uses the results of a variety of assessment strategies to provide students with feedback about how well they are doing,” says Dr. Richard Pittini, MD Program Director of Evaluations who is leading the development of the assessment approach together with Dr. Glendon Tait, Director of Foundations Student Assessment. 

To ensure the new curriculum effectively builds upon evidence-informed best practices, and meets the needs of our students, the leadership team engaged broadly with a wide range of experts, alumni, health care leaders, faculty, students and the education research community to design and build the new curriculum and assessment program.



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