It's been almost a year since we developed the blueprint for our curriculum. Since we are a brand new medical school, we have the wonderful opportunity to use established, researched and well-regarded teaching models from other medical schools - then put these together in a way that's never been done before. Today, I'm going to discuss two major components of our curriculum -- EMT certification and problem-based learning (PBL).
Our students must have a firm knowledge base necessary to understand all of the disease processes that affect us, the basis for the diseases as we understand them today, and the treatments and expected outcomes. It is essential to understand how the human body works from the organization of the muscles and joints to the nerves and organ systems. Building this vast knowledge base is essential for preparing competent physicians.
Our students will begin their medical school experience by becoming certified EMTs. This six-week training will teach them how to evaluate patients quickly, administer support treatments and manage care for the duration of the emergency. They will start medical school with crucial life-saving skills already in hand.
Following their EMT certification, our students will move into a problem-based curriculum - a teaching model I'm very familiar with and implemented while in Philadelphia at the Medical College of Pennsylvania, now known as the Drexel College of Medicine, in 1990. We started the program with a group of 50 students. The rest of the 175 students took the "traditional curriculum." Select faculty spent a year learning how to teach the PBL curriculum, which demands a different teaching paradigm. Instead of lecturing students, the role of faculty is to facilitate and guide student learning as they work in small groups of six to eight to identify, investigate, understand, and solve open-ended problems.
UNLV School of Medicine
Director of Case-Based Learning, Stephen Dahlem, MD.
UNLV School of Medicine's a problem-based curriculum is organized by organ system, similar to how most standard medical school curricula are now organized. Starting with general principles, like inflammation, genetics and cancer to orient the student, the curriculum moves to the musculoskeletal system. Each week, students get a 'paper' case, which outlines the initial patient/physician encounter. Each case has a 'chief complaint.'
As the case progresses, more information emerges in the form of lab tests, radiology exams, perhaps surgery or biopsies. Cases will get more complicated, often involving bioethical or legal issues. They might have a social component, like addiction. After an 18-month experience in the PBL curriculum, students will take the first component of the national licensing exam.
Although it began as an experiment, problem-based curriculum has become extremely popular with faculty and students at many medical schools, and is still taught at Drexel. Other, more traditional, lecture-based medical schools have been adopting it into their curriculums.
Historically, PBL has been used for small classes or small groups because it is faculty-intensive work. That said, I believe it is perfect for the future of medical schools because it teaches students how to seek out answers, solve problems collectively, work in small teams, cultivate introspection, engage in hands on research, support and challenge peers - all skills that will prepare students for the real world, and vitally essential for the healthy growth of the practice of medicine.
Our Vice Dean for Academic Affairs and Education, Ellen Cosgrove reached out to her former colleagues at the University of New Mexico who use the PBL curriculum. They generously donated their entire portfolio of PBL paper cases. Now, we're ready to hit the ground running.