During the past five years (2001–2006), the University of Bristol Medical School has developed and implemented a new model for delivering clinical education: the clinical academy. The principal features of the model are (1) having both in-Bristol and out-of-Bristol campuses for clinical education, (2) innovative partnerships with local health care providers, (3) local leadership of educational delivery, and (4) the recruitment and training of new cadres of clinical teachers.
The seven clinical academies consist of two academies based in traditional acute-care teaching hospitals in the city of Bristol and five academies in the surrounding counties. The same Bristol curriculum is delivered in every clinical academy by locally recruited hospital specialists and family physicians. Each academy is led by an academy medical dean, who has local responsibility for program delivery, quality assurance, academic and personal support for students, and finances on behalf of the university.
Medical students rotate between clinical academies every half academic year, alternately based in and outside of Bristol. They learn clinical medicine and develop clinical competence as apprentice members of a local multiprofessional learning community. The medical school now has enough high-quality clinical placements to accommodate increasing numbers of medical students whilst keeping a “human-scale” educational environment.
Clinical academies are thus the key components of a decentralized system of curriculum delivery; they differ in concept and purpose from the new academies of medical educators in the United States that offer a centralized focus for the educational mission.