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Medical Students Perspectives on Implementing Curriculum Change at One Institution

Yengo-Kahn, Aaron M. MD; Baker, Courtney E.; Lomis, and Kimberly D. MD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000001569

Training physicians to be effective practitioners throughout their careers begins in undergraduate medical education with particular focus on self-directed inquiry, professional and interprofessional development, and competency-based assessment. A select number of medical schools are restructuring their curricula by placing the student at the center of content delivery to enhance the learning experience. While this restructuring may benefit the adult learner, administrators often make assumptions about how students will perceive and respond to such innovative and unfamiliar educational concepts. This can create a disconnect between students and their curriculum. Administrative mindfulness of student experiences is needed to ensure successful implementation of curricular change, facilitate the transition from old to new modalities, and train competent physician graduates.

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (VUSM) recently completed a curriculum update, and student representatives have been essential participants in the transition, from the earliest stages in preplanning to rapid-cycle feedback as the curriculum runs. Two of the authors are members of VUSM’s Student Curriculum Committee, which facilitates gathering and relaying student feedback to the administration. Drawing from their experiences, five specific considerations to address and manage when implementing student-centered curricular change are presented: (1) Communicate the rationale, (2) acknowledge anxiety, (3) adjust extracurricular leadership roles, (4) manage “The Bulge” of learners in the clinical environment, and (5) foster ongoing collaboration of students and administrators. For each consideration, examples and proposed solutions are provided.

A.M. Yengo-Kahn is a first-year resident physician, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee.

C.E. Baker is a fourth-year medical student, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee.

K.D. Lomis is associate dean for undergraduate medical education, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee.

The authors have informed the journal that they agree that C.E. Baker and A.M. Yengo-Kahn have both completed the intellectual and other work typical of the first author.

Funding/Support: None reported.

Other disclosures: K.D. Lomis serves as associate project director for the Association of American Medical Colleges’ (AAMC’s) Core Entrustable Professional Activities for Entering Residency (Core EPAs) pilot project. The content presented in this article reflects her views and does not necessarily represent the views of the AAMC regarding this initiative. K.D. Lomis receives support from the American Medical Association (AMA) as a principal investigator in the Accelerating Change in Medical Education Initiative and serves as a codirector of the competency-based assessment group. The content presented in this article reflects her views and does not necessarily represent the views of AMA or other participants in this initiative.

Ethical approval: Reported as not applicable.

Previous presentations: A version of the ideas described herein was presented as a poster at the Association of American Medical Colleges Southern Group on Educational Affairs Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas, April 13–16, 2016.

Correspondence should be addressed to Courtney E. Baker, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Light Hall 201, Nashville, TN 37212; telephone: (301) 943-3334; e-mail:

© 2017 by the Association of American Medical Colleges