Campus News

Jacobs School curriculum redesign will be a community effort

Conference rooms in use in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences building.

Photo: Douglas Levere

By DIRK HOFFMAN

Published November 11, 2019

Lisa Jane Jacobsen.

Lisa Jane Jacobsen

“Ultimately we would like to have the people in the Buffalo community feel like this is their medical school.”
Lisa Jane Jacobsen, MD, associate dean for medical curriculum
Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

The Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB is using an “it takes a village” approach as it embarks upon a redesign and revision of its curriculum.

School leaders are reaching out to the community at large as it begins a three-year process that will include a series of retreats, focus groups and town hall meetings.

“We want to make sure we include the many people that will be affected by a new curriculum. That includes the community and the people who will be patients, our students and faculty, and our hospital systems, which are a training ground for our students and a workplace for our students after their training,” said Lisa Jane Jacobsen, MD, associate dean for medical curriculum.

The effort kicked off in September with a retreat held at the Jacobs School that featured about 150 people — consisting of Jacobs School faculty, clinicians, basic scientists, students and residents, along with community leaders and partners, hospital and health systems leaders and administrators and leaders from across UB programs and schools outside of the medical school.

Attendees were asked to fill out a survey that, among other things, inquired about the needs they envisioned for better health care in Western New York.

“Participants overwhelmingly said the most positive part of the experience for them was the opportunity to be involved in the dialogue,” said Jennifer A. Meka, PhD, assistant dean for medical education, who co-directed the retreat with Jacobsen.

Including people from the broader university community — such as the Graduate School of Education, School of Dental Medicine, School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Public Health and Health Professions, and School of Nursing — was important to make sure different perspectives were obtained, according to Meka.

“Many of them are going through or have gone through similar revisions to either their entire curricula or to some of their programs, so they have a lot of insight they can share about things they would have been thinking about earlier or that they would have done differently,” she said. “That is really critical for us, especially at this stage.”

Key focus on methods of instruction

While input from outside entities will be an important part of the process, there are other factors to consider.

Some of the major ideas being discussed focus on methods of instruction, including moving away from lectures and using more case-based, team-based and problem-based learning as well as small group discussions and simulations Jacobsen said. “We want to implement more active learning experiences, where students participate more actively in the classroom and apply their knowledge.”

Early experiential learning will be key, too, because it allows students to apply their knowledge to actually taking care of people sooner in their training.

“Having interactions with patients at an early stage not only improves their interest and makes it more applicable and relevant to them, it also improves the way they learn,” Jacobsen said.

Even the new Jacobs School building — with its flexible learning spaces — figures heavily in the process of revising the curriculum.

“We have the space and technology to not be constrained, and it allows us to be really thoughtful and deliberate about helping to support our faculty in implementing different designs and practices,” Meka said.

Early experiential learning allows students to start off early in their training applying their knowledge to actually taking care of people.

“Having interactions with patients at an early stage not only improves their interest and makes it more applicable and relevant to them, it also improves the way they learn,” Jacobsen says.

The new Jacobs School building — with its flexible learning spaces — figures heavily in the process of revising the curriculum.

“We have the space and technology to not be constrained, and it allows us to be really thoughtful and deliberate about helping to support our faculty in implementing different designs and practices,” Meka says.

Delivery of health care constantly evolving

The curriculum revision also reflects what’s happening within the nation’s health care system and the way care is provided, both of which have changed greatly during the last few decades.

“We need to teach our students more about how our health system works, and they need to learn their roles within the system,” Jacobsen said.

The new curriculum will emphasize the triple aim of providing value-based, high-quality care that takes costs into consideration as well, and also focuses on patient safety.

“Humanism is another key. We have a lot of competencies we expect our students to reach by the time they graduate,” said Jacobsen. “We expect them to be compassionate, caring and ethical, patient-centered clinicians.”

“Beyond working with role-model physicians on the wards, there may be more deliberate ways to teach these qualities. We’re planning and thinking about how to provide experiences — whether it be clinical scenarios or students going out into the community to actually work with patients, seeing how people live and understanding their perspective,” she added.

Partnership between school, community

Alison Whelan, MD, chief medical education officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges, was the keynote speaker at the September retreat and reminded everyone to remember the importance of keeping things in context.

Whelan encouraged the group look inward and outward at the local community, where Jacobs School students will be practicing.

“She said we should be co-producing and learning with our community partners, which I think is very exciting,” Meka said. “We should be thinking about ways this endeavor can be beneficial for both the institution and the community,”

“Ultimately,” adds Jacobsen, “we would like to have the people in the Buffalo community feel like this is their medical school.”