3 Innovative New Approaches to Medical Education

3 Innovative New Approaches to Medical Education
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Brian Wu June 24, 2015

Medical education in the U.S. hasn’t changed much over the years. Some schools, though, are implementing innovative new approaches in teaching their students. Learn from Noodle Expert Brian Wu about three medical schools that are transforming the way their graduates learn and practice medicine.

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According to In-Training]1{: target=”_blank” }, a site developed by students to describe about their [medical school experiences, the American medical school curriculum has not seen significant change in decades.

The majority of institutions across the country rely on the same basic approach to prepare their students to become doctors: two years of intensive in-class scientific instruction followed by two years of clinical-based learning. In-Training notes that the founding notion behind this system is that it is best to thoroughly ground would-be doctors in the knowledge and science of their craft before allowing them clinical experience.

Today, however, there are medical schools across the country in which this format is changing. Increasingly, schools are designing and implementing new approaches to medical education in an effort to turn out well-rounded, compassionate doctors who are simultaneously team players and dedicated to holistic patient care.

Let’s take a look at three new models that aim to achieve these goals — and the ways you can decide which approach is right for you.

University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville

According to In-Training, the medical school at this branch of the University of South Carolina system is changing its approach to traditional medical education. In order to give students clinical experience from the beginning of their program — and to encourage them to think about their patients holistically — all admitted students are required to receive EMT training before their coursework begins. Moreover, during the first two years of their medical schooling, they must serve one shift per month as EMTs.

The University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville is also committed to producing physicians who can work effectively as members of medical teams, and to that end, students are divided into small groups and given clinical problems that they can only solve successfully by working together.

Case Western Reserve School of Medicine

Case Western Reserve has come up with its own unique approach to turning out physicians who are ready to face the challenges of 21st century medical practice. The school has developed the Western Reserve2 (WR2) curriculum{: target=”_blank” } with the goal of creating “physician scholars.” These individuals will be competent not only in diagnosing and treating disease, but also in understanding the social and behavioral contexts surrounding it. With this knowledge in place, graduates will be capable of providing better care in health maintenance and disease prevention. Through small, interactive discussions, self-led learning modules, research opportunities, and frequent and early experiences with patients, the school has woven together evidence-based medical practice, scholarship, and the guiding tenets of public health.

University of Virginia School of Medicine

UVA Magazine{: target=”_blank” } reports that deep changes are happening in the school’s approach to medical education. Starting with the entering class of 2014, UVA’s med school deployed its new curriculum. The program includes interactive modules that combine basic science and critical thinking skills, team-based learning, medical simulation labs (starting in the second week of the program), and a clinical skills center using trained actors to simulate signs and symptoms of different diseases. The goal is to train students who have a strong knowledge base, deep clinical skills, and the capacity for critical thinking in order to graduate medical practitioners with a holistic and compassionate understanding of patients.

What Is Right for You?

With all of these changes taking place in the medical school experience, a prospective student might well wonder which approach will be a good fit.

It may sound obvious, but reading the websites of medical schools that interest you is a great place to start. Each school is likely to tout the changes in its educational approach as a means of attracting innovative, creative students.

In addition, The Princeton Review has published an excellent digest{: target=”_blank” } on different factors to consider when you’re investigating med schools, including academic approach and structure, student life, student-teacher ratio, opportunities for research and, of course, cost.

Websites like In-Training and Med School Insight{: target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow” } are also helpful, as they publicize the experiences — both positive and negative — of medical students across the country. These accounts can give applicants a feel for the both the worthwhile learning experiences and the challenges that accompany these different educational experiences.

New approaches to medical education are producing doctors who are both ready to face the the complexities of modern medicine and able to work on teams with other health care professionals. These changes reflect a growing recognition that medical outcomes improve when doctors care for patients as whole people rather than as discreet diseases to be treated and diagnosed. Understanding the type of practitioner you want to be and doing thorough research on these innovative programs will help you decide which schools will be a great fit for you.


Lefler, D. (2013, December 16). New and Future Approaches to Medical Education. Retrieved July 1, 2015, from InTraining.

The Western Reserve2 Curriculum (4-Year MD Training Physician-Scholars). (n.d.). Retrieved July 1, 2015, from Case Western Reserve University Medical School.

Singleton, M. (2011). Adjusting the Prescription. Retrieved July 1, 2015, from UVA Magazine.

Choosing a Medical School. (n.d.). Retrieved July 1, 2015, from The Princeton Review.

Carter, W. (n.d.). How to transition from the classroom to clinic. Retrieved July 1, 2015, from Med School Insight.

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

To learn more about our editorial standards, you can click here.


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