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Penn State College of Medicine leads transformation of medical education

Being selected to host the American Medical Association’s (AMA) “Accelerating Change in Medical Education” conference both acknowledged Penn State College of Medicine’s hard-won expertise in health systems science and enabled its leaders to share strategies for revolutionizing medical education.

More than 120 medical students, residents, physicians and educators from 27 schools across the U.S. attended the student-led consortium Aug. 3-4 in Hershey.

The College of Medicine has emerged as a leader in the field since receiving a $1 million, five-year grant from the AMA in 2013 to develop and implement curriculum changes supporting health systems science and medical education transformation.

“To me, health systems science is essentially good care. It’s not a separate entity—it’s being cognizant of all facets of your patient’s life, putting the patient at the center of your work and understanding how to make the system work for that patient,” says Amarpreet Ahluwalia, the College of Medicine student chosen to co-lead the planning of the AMA conference.

The AMA’s movement to improve medical education stems from the fact that little change had occurred in medical education in the United States since the early 20th century. For more than 100 years, education focused primarily on biomedical science and clinical science, despite decades of transformation to the health care system. And while doctors graduated well prepared to face the technical aspects of being a physician, it has become increasingly obvious that they are not well prepared for the navigational and administrative sides of practicing medicine.

“You can’t improve a system until you understand how that system works,” says Ahluwalia. “The goal for the conference was to look at the barriers and challenges and to celebrate the successes in health systems science in medical education across the continuum of learning.”

Together with co-leader and Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center Internal Medicine and Pediatrics resident Dr. Michael McCann, Ahluwalia crafted a unique experience for attendees by broadening the spectrum from its historical students-only guest list to triads of one student, resident and faculty member from each of the 32 schools participating.

“The idea was to get every stage of learner at the table, sharing ideas, interacting and solving problems,” says McCann. “All of the workshops were set up to be engaging and productive, so that each team would go back to their school with an action plan or a list of ideas to begin implementing health systems science into their medical education in at least one practical way.”

College of Medicine students hosted and helped with day-of operations for the August event, and students, residents and faculty from the College of Medicine and many attending universities gave the talks and led the workshops.

Learn more about the event – and how Penn State College of Medicine is working to transform medical education – in this Penn State Medicine article.

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