AMA reveals latest in medical education reform: New pillar of study, new textbook

The American Medical Association unveiled a formalized strategy Tuesday to revamp medical education, complete with a textbook to support the emerging curriculum.

The new strategy adds a third area of study to medical education: health systems science. This third pillar, which will be added to basic and clinical science, covers value-based care, patient safety, quality improvement, teamwork, leadership, clinical informatics, population health, socioecological determinants of health, healthcare policy and healthcare economics.

"We know that the way healthcare is being delivered is changing, but until now those changes have not been widely incorporated into the way we teach our physicians. Our medical schools are very good at preparing students for the basic and clinical sciences that are paramount to providing care to patients, but what is largely missing is how to deliver that care in a complex health system," AMA CEO James Madara, MD, said in a statement.

The curriculum is the result of the work of 32 medical schools around the country that received grants to push the boundaries of medical education under the AMA's Accelerating Change in Medical Education program. The impetus behind the program was "to have these schools innovate, collaborate and rethink medical education from the ground up," Dr. Madara said during a media conference Tuesday.

The textbook for health systems science was written by the consortium's 11 founding schools. The book will be available to all medical schools mid-December, but many consortium schools have already begun teaching with it, including Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, Pa., and Brown University's Warren Alpert Medical School in Providence, R.I.

Penn State began its systems navigation curriculum in fall 2014 with the help of $1 million in funding from the AMA, according to Jed Gonzalo, MD, associate dean for health systems education. This longitudinal curriculum focused on population health, social determinants of health and the leadership processes of healthcare delivery — topics which were not taught in depth at Penn State before, Dr. Gonzalo said during the media conference. Penn State also developed a year-long opportunity to embed students as patient navigators. The school is now working to extend these curricular components to third and fourth year medical students, and into its other graduate programs.

Brown University's Warren Alpert Medical School used its $1 million grant to develop a primary care/population medicine program, which allows students to earn a dual medical degree and master's degree in four years. The school ultimately plans to roll out similar programs for specialties beyond primary care, according to Jeff Borkan, MD, PhD, assistant dean for primary care-population medicine program planning at Brown.

The idea is to prepare future physicians to better understand how patients receive and access care. It aims to help students "hit the ground running to handle the business side of healthcare, in addition to knowing how to diagnose and treat patients," said AMA Vice President for Medical Education Outcomes Susan Skochelak, MD.


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