The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, one of the schools in the AMA consortium, used its $1 million, five-year grant to prepare its faculty for curriculum changes before they were adopted.
In 2013, the school implemented an education program for faculty called the Teachers of Quality Academy. The faculty participated in group and online courses that addressed quality improvement strategies, population health, interprofessional team work and leadership.
"We recognize that healthcare is changing and we need all of our faculty to understand the basics of health system science to lead change," said Dr. Luan Lawson, assistant dean of curriculum, assessment and clinical academic affairs at Brody.
The movement doesn't stop with large, multi-school collaborations. Medical schools new to the scene have also adopted innovative curriculum. These schools have the advantages of a fresh perspective and the opportunity to learn from their more established peers.
These efforts by East Carolina, Penn State and the Medical College of Wisconsin are no longer unique. "There is no school that hasn't change their curriculum substantially," said Alison Whelan, chief medical education officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges, which represents all 147 accredited U.S. medical schools.
Take the Cooper Medical School of Rowan University in Camden, N.J., for example. The school, which opened in the summer of 2012, researched and reached out to the most forward-thinking medical schools across the country to establish a curriculum they hope will prepare its students for the future of patient care, said Dr. Annette Reboli, interim dean of the school.
During their first two years at Cooper, students only have about six hours of lectures a week. The rest of their time is spent in small groups where they work together to solve a fictitious patient case meant to mimic a real-life scenario. The students not only work together to determine the diagnosis and best treatment for the patient, but social determinants of health are also addressed. A case might feature an uninsured diabetic patient with poor access to transportation. "The students learn how to navigate the healthcare system," Reboli said.
Teamwork is embedded throughout the curriculum. As part of the ambulatory clerkship program, medical students work with the pharmaceutical, nursing and social work students to run a clinic that's within Cooper University Health Care, the health system affiliate of the school.
Reboli said the Cooper Medical faculty felt it was important for medical students to be exposed early on to different healthcare professionals and their roles because that's where the industry is headed. Doctors increasingly find themselves working in teams with nurses, pharmacists and others to achieve coordinated care, yet that experience is sorely missing in traditional medical education.
The school also emphasizes the importance of population health by requiring each student to complete 40 hours of community service a year. This can take many forms, Reboli said. For example, one student coached a soccer team while another helped teach English as a second language. The experiences allow students to understand their patients and the community of Camden better, Reboli said.
At the Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine, slated to open in 2019, students will be asked to come up with solutions to a variety of complex health issues such as low immunization rates or falls in the inpatient setting.
"Part of what we have to do is show medical students how to be leaders of change," said Dr. Edward Ellison, board member of the school and co-CEO of the Permanente Federation, a Kaiser subsidiary connected to its medical groups.
The students will also benefit from the school's affiliation with Kaiser Permanente, the not-for-profit health system based in Oakland, Calif., Ellison said. Students are expected to shadow doctors, work in the more than 30 safety-net clinics that are part of the Kaiser system, and visit patients in their homes after discharge.
Kaiser's move to open a medical school represents a growing trend in medical education. Health systems are increasingly working with their affiliate medical schools to brainstorm how students should be trained, said Leah Gassett, a principal at ECG Management Consultants with an expertise in medical education.
"Health systems are recognizing they would like a seat at the table so the graduates are prepared to be effective clinical leaders of their systems," she said.
But Ellison said Kaiser's foremost goal wasn't to foster a pipeline of future doctors to work at the system—though they expect some students to stay at Kaiser to pursue their residency. Instead, the main driver was a desire to be part of the changes happening in medical education.
"We want to contribute to the broader evolution of medical education," he said. "We see this as a way to learn and share outside our system."