Medical educators have a responsibility to teach students to communicate effectively, yet ways to accomplish this are not well-defined. Sixty-five percent of medical schools teach communication skills, usually in the preclinical years; however, communication skills learned in the preclinical years may decline by graduation. To address these problems the New York University School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the University of Massachusetts Medical School collaborated to develop, establish, and evaluate a comprehensive communication skills curriculum. This work was funded by the Josiah P. Macy, Jr. Foundation and is therefore referred to as the Macy Initiative in Health Communication. The three schools use a variety of methods to teach third-year students in each school a set of effective clinical communication skills. In a controlled trial this cross-institutional curriculum project proved effective in improving communication skills of third-year students as measured by a comprehensive, multistation, objective structured clinical examination.
In this paper the authors describe the development of this unique, collaborative initiative. Grounded in a three-school consensus on the core skills and critical components of a communication skills curriculum, this article illustrates how each school tailored the curriculum to its own needs. In addition, the authors discuss the lessons learned from conducting this collaborative project, which may provide guidance to others seeking to establish effective cross-disciplinary skills curricula.