Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What does Upstate Medical University hope to accomplish by changing its medical school curriculum?

The goals of the new curriculum are to:

  1. Better prepare our students for lifelong and active learning in complex health care systems and communities.
  2. Increase integration of the basic and clinical sciences allowing students to apply science concepts throughout their education and increase comprehension and retention of medical knowledge.

What will happen to the courses in the current curriculum?

The organ-based units will become separate courses in the 2016-17 academic year for MS1s and in the 2017-18 academic year for MS2s. Each organ-based unit course will incorporate and integrate various disciplines such as anatomy, biochemistry, genetics, physiology, microbiology and pathology. One new course from 2015 for MS1s called Molecules, Cells and Microbes (MCM) will remain as will the Practice of Medicine Course. A new Case-Based Learning course (CBL) which will have small groups and problem-based learning, will begin in the 2016-17 year for MS1s and the 2017-18 year for MS2s.

How will decisions regarding curriculum content be made?

Content decisions are being made by Co-Directors of the Organ-Based Systems Units in consultation with Thread Leaders and leadership. Final versions of unit content will be discussed and approved by the Curriculum Committee in the Spring of 2016.

What is the role of the Thread Leaders?

A curricular thread is a subject element or theme that is spread throughout the curriculum. In the first year, we have identified basic science Thread Leaders who will provide consultation on the range of curricular topics appropriate for their subject area in the MS1 and MS2 year and advise on specific instructors.

What is this new CBL course?

The new Case-Based Learning course will have small groups utilizing problem-based learning (PBL) to solve clinical cases aligned with subject areas in the MS1 year starting in August 2016 and the MS2 year starting in August 2017.

Will the grading system change?

We will continue to have a Pass/Fail system in the pre-clerkship years, but each Organ-Based Systems Unit will be a separate course. A single grade at the end of the academic year will be assigned for the new CBL course and the POM course. The exact process and policy for remediation will be decided by the Curriculum Committee in the Spring of 2016.

How will we evaluate the success of the new curriculum?

We are working closely with the Office of Evaluation, Assessment and Research to identify specific measures of success.
Possible measurable outcomes for the revised curriculum:

  • Increased collaboration between clinical and basic science faculty on curriculum content and delivery
  • Increased collaboration between faculty from different basic science departments on curriculum content and delivery
  • Increased percentage of exam questions with quality integrated content and clinical vignettes
  • Increased comprehension of medical knowledge as measured by unit exams and standardized national exams (USMLE Step 1 & Step 2 CK)
  • Increased retention of medical knowledge content from the pre-clerkship curriculum during the clerkship years
  • Increased student perception of the clinical relevance of the basic science content taught in the pre-clerkship years
  • Increased student perceptions on how well their training in the basic sciences prepared them for clerkships

How will physicians contribute to bringing clinical relevance to the MS1 curriculum?

Physicians will bring clinical context and relevance to the basic science concepts taught and provide insight into clinical vignette questions. Physicians will also provide real clinical cases for the CBL course and insight into the necessary level of medical knowledge for clinical reasoning and medical practice.

What support and resources will be available to faculty and staff to make curriculum changes?

The Curriculum Office will provide support for many aspects of the work needing to be done for these curriculum changes. The Curriculum Office has recently hired a new Director of the Phase 1 Curriculum who will assist the Assistant Dean for the Foundational Sciences and others in coordinating curriculum change.

Will there be changes to the third and fourth year with the shortening of the MS2 year beginning in 2017-18?

It is anticipated that there may be opportunities for intersessions or other types of returns to the foundational sciences in the new third and fourth year curriculum (Phase 2). These are plans for curricular change in the third and fourth year that will help further integrate the entire medical curriculum.