Many U.S. medical schools offer students the opportunity to undertake laboratory or clinical research or another form of scholarly project over the summer months, yet few require this as a prerequisite for graduation, and even fewer provide comprehensive didactic material in preparation for the performance of such a project as an integrated component of their curricula. The authors describe the Scholarly Project Initiative of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, a novel, longitudinal, and required program. The program will aim to provide all students with structured preparatory coursework, foster critical analytical and communication skills, and introduce the breadth and depth of the research and scholarly enterprise engendered by modern academic medicine in the contexts of both the classroom and an individual, mentored experience. The initiative has two goals: encouraging an interest in academic medicine in an era marked by the continuing decline in the number of physician–investigators, and fostering the development of physicians who have confidence in their abilities to practice medicine with creativity, original and analytical thought, and relentless attention to the scientific method.
Planning for the Scholarly Project Initiative began officially at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine's Curriculum Colloquium in May 2003. The initiative was implemented with the first-year class of July 2004 as part of the new “Scientific Reasoning and Medicine” block of the School of Medicine's curriculum. The block as a whole includes traditional lectures, small-group laboratory and problem-based sessions, and mentored independent study components.