A bold new curriculum, a focus on collaborative endeavors, and a deep commitment to addressing health disparities in the community are powerful themes that will help shape the future of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
“We are transforming our school through an integrated, holistic approach to learning,” said Henri R. Ford, M.D., M.H.A., dean and chief academic officer, in presenting the 15th Biennial Ralph H. and Ruth F. Gross Lecture, “Renaissance: The Future of the Miller School of Medicine,” on November 21 at the Berrocal Auditorium at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute.
“Great things are already happening here, but we have enormous potential to become one of the leading academic health centers in the nation,” said Dr. Ford. “How do we get there? We must promote a culture of excellence across all disciplines, while striving for preeminence in selected fields. We must optimize the learning environment for everyone, and produce enlightened leaders for the future.”
To begin the program, JoAnn Van Schaik, M.L.S., executive director of Calder Library and associate dean for health science services, University Libraries, introduced Edward Abraham, M.D. executive vice president for health affairs and CEO of UHealth – the University of Miami Health System.
Dr. Abraham welcomed the 150 attendees, including Carol Gross Clarkson and Patricia Gross Bergman, daughters of Ralph and Ruth Gross, as well as Miller School faculty members, fellows, residents and medical students. “We want our students to have the optimal medical school experience,” said Dr. Abraham. “Our program is dedicated to excellence across all our missions – research, education and clinical care.”
A New Curriculum
Much of Dr. Ford’s talk focused on the NextGenMD curriculum – a fresh approach to the Miller School’s medical education program developed over the past three years. It is scheduled to take effect in the fall of 2020.
“We need to close the gap between physician training and the future needs of our nation’s health care system,” said Dr. Ford. “In general, we will move from fact memorization to critical reasoning, from professional silos to collaborative teamwork, as we seek creative ways to apply limited global health resources to address local priorities.”
The first phase of the NextGenMD curriculum will focus on the foundational sciences, health and wellness states, and symptom-based diseases and conditions. Later phases will include integrated clerkships and classroom learning experiences, as well as research and other scholarly activities, and an early transition to residency for a select number of qualified students.
“Our new curriculum will introduce students to concepts like population health, nutrition and wellness, and health disparities, while supporting their personal and professional development,” said Dr. Ford. “We will also add an ‘EMT light’ component giving our students life-saving skills in a medical emergency.”
Medical students will be given a wide range of opportunities for professional collaboration with other fields, including nursing, social work, business, law, education and climate change. “Interdependency is a key element of a health systems approach,” Dr. Ford said. “We will also weave ethics into all aspects of our program.”
A subtle change will be the use of assessments “for” learning, rather than “of” learning, as clinicians and researchers will need to continue their education throughout their professional careers.
Dr. Ford also discussed the Miller School’s basic science and clinical research programs, outlined in a recent strategic retreat. “We want to be able to convert our discoveries into intellectual property that can be commercialized, bringing new therapies and treatments to our patients,” he said.
Another priority is medical informatics – a field that touches virtually every aspect of research and clinical care, Dr. Ford said. “We will be launching a search for a chair of medical informatics. This is a critical need we plan to fulfill as rapidly as possible.”
Developing mentorship programs, reducing gender disparities and providing incentives for researchers are other issues that will be addressed.
Benefits of Transformation
While changing an institution’s culture is always a challenge, Dr. Ford pointed to the many benefits of taking a fresh approach to learning.
“We believe this will lead to building more equitable and better performing health systems in the future,” he said. “It will also help to optimize health outcomes for patients, families and communities. For instance, there is no reason for a 15-year disparity in life expectancy between Miami residents who live in the Brickell and Overtown neighborhoods.”
Most importantly, the NextGenMD curriculum and commitment to research and clinical care will spark a lasting “renaissance” for the Miller School, said Dr. Ford. “We exist to empower learners, transform lives, and inspire our students to serve our global community. This will be a giant step forward in fulfilling our mission.”