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College of Medicine, AMA mark major milestone in reshaping medical education

It's been a year since the American Medical Association (AMA) awarded $1 million to Penn State College of Medicine as part of its ambitious $11 million initiative Accelerating Change in Medical Education. And today, leaders from Penn State College of Medicine and leaders from the other 10 medical schools selected for the grant convened at Vanderbilt University's School of Medicine to embark on the next phase to help reshape the way medical students are educated in this country.

“There has been a universal call to transform the teaching of medicine to shift the focus of education toward real-world practice and competency assessment, which is why the AMA launched the Accelerating Change in Medical Education initiative,” said Robert M. Wah, MD, president, American Medical Association. “The AMA is proud to be leading the charge to answer this call. Over the last year, we have made significant progress in transforming curriculum at these medical schools that can and will help close the gaps that currently exist between how medical students are trained and the way health care is delivered in this country now and in the future.”

Penn State College of Medicine was among 11 medical schools selected based on their bold and innovative ideas to reshape medical education. In the last year, Penn State has made significant progress in its efforts to collaborate with its health system leaders to design educational experiences that align medical education with health system needs.

>> Read the initial story about the AMA grant awarded to Penn State College of Medicine (June, 2013)

In August, Penn State launched its new Systems Navigation Curriculum (SyNC), which includes a Science of Health Systems course paired with immersive experiences as patient navigators. The course threads evidence-based medicine, teamwork and leadership throughout its eight health systems modules. Cases for the seminar-based, 20-month course are being developed in collaboration with health system leaders in the central Pennsylvania region. All first-year medical students began the course by interviewing standardized patients portraying high utilizer scenarios to learn about the role of patient navigators. Beginning in October 2014, at least 50–70 medical students will be embedded at clinical sites across central Pennsylvania working as patient navigators. To prepare for the patient navigator program, Penn State conducted site visits to clinical settings that will support the patient navigators and completed data collection of relationships with external agencies/health systems and clinical sites. Analysis of the data will occur within the next year.

“Healthcare is in a period of transformation, and the skills required of our physicians include an expanded set of competencies to most appropriately care for patients to achieve better outcomes,” said Dr. Jed Gonzalo,¬†assistant dean for health systems education at Penn State College of Medicine. “This not only includes a particular patient in one point in time, but also populations of patients and a health care delivery system that requires improvement and modification to deliver high-value care. We are fortunate to be partnering with more than a dozen clinical sites to embed our medical students on their teams as patient navigators. We anticipate these authentic experiences will provide our students with a patient-centered lens through which to view and understand the systems sciences, which we believe will be invaluable to their careers.”

Leaders from Penn State College of Medicine shared this progress with the 10 other selected schools during today's meeting at Vanderbilt. The meeting is part of the AMA's Accelerating Change in Medical Education initiative's learning consortium that was established to ensure the 11 selected schools share best practices and ideas for future implementation of their programs in medical schools across the country. Over the next four years, the AMA will continue to track, gather data and report on the progress of the medical schools' collective work in order to identify and widely disseminate the best models for transformative educational change.

“Each school, including Penn State, has taken major steps forward to advance their grant projects and, collectively, we have made great strides in moving the needle toward reshaping medical education on a national level,” said Susan Skochelak, MD, M.P.H., AMA Group Vice President for Medical Education. “These efforts will help propel medical education into the 21st century and ultimately improve care and outcomes for patients.”

As part of the consortium, Penn State College of Medicine is working with these 11 schools to reshape medical education across the country. Some of the other schools' projects include leading-edge educational models that allow medical students to gain experience within the health care system from day one of medical school, new curriculum that give students with prior healthcare experience an opportunity to progress through medical school based on individual competency, classes designed to boost physician leadership and team care skills, and courses that ensure medical students are trained on the use of electronic health records. Each school's grant project can be tracked at ChangeMedEd.org.

“Through this bold and collaborative effort, the AMA is at the forefront of creating the medical school of the future and ensuring medical students are provided the training needed to become our physicians of the future,” said Dr. Skochelak.

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