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Medical Schools’ Curricular Changes Emphasize Primary Care and Health Disparities

As part of an initiative sponsored by the American Medical Association, 11 medical schools received grants to innovate their curricula. Three of those schools are using the funds to integrate new curricular components which strive to help future physicians focus on primary care and eliminate health disparities. These schools—Brown’s Alpert Warren Medical School, the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina, and the University of California at Davis—have come up with novel ways to teach students about the needs of underserved populations.

At Brown the Primary Care and Population Health Program, which is set to launch in 2015, will grant participants a dual MD-MS degree emphasizing population health, public health policy, leadership skills, and teamwork. Students in the program will be mentored by local primary care physicians and engage in nine-month clerkships with local practices instead of the typical six-week rotation, learning through this continuum of care. The target enrollment for the program is 24 students, at least initially.

At East Carolina’s Brody School of Medicine, which has long had an emphasis on rural and underserved populations, a revamped curriculum will be rolled out integrating new components on patient safety and interprofessional team-based skills. In addition, selected students will participate in the new Leaders in Innovative Care Scholars program, earning a certificate in Health System Transformation and Leadership.

At the University of California at Davis a new three-year competency-based program is being introduced. Students who enroll in the Accelerated Competency-Based Education in Primary Care (ACE-PC) program are simultaneously admitted to local primary care residencies for a combined total of six years of med school and residency training. The program is being launched in partnership with Kaiser Permanente; students will be trained in Kaiser’s health system and the patient-centered medical home. Components of the curriculum will include managing chronic diseases, improving quality of care, team-based care, and preventative medicine, all with a focus on underserved and diverse populations.

These are just three curricular changes which aim to to help students learn about and address health disparities through outstanding training in primary care and population health.  More schools seem to be integrating curricular components addressing these issues; the University of Chicago Pritzker offers another example.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

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