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Brown Alpert Medical School

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A New Direction in Medical Education

Brown and the American Medical Association Share a Vision

In May, the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and state health care leaders welcomed senior medical education leadership from the American Medical Association (AMA) to Providence. More than visitors, the guests are partners in the aim to improve medical education.

“Medical education is struggling to break out of the mold formed a century ago and into the modern health care system,” says Susan Skochelak, MD, MPH, group vice president of Medical Education for the AMA, who attended the day-long gathering. “We can’t afford to keep training future physicians in the same old way and expect improvement in our health outcomes in this century.”

The purpose of the meeting was to share with the AMA details of Alpert Medical School’s developing Primary Care—Population Medicine program. The AMA awarded the Medical School a $1 million grant for the program last June as part of the AMA’s Accelerating Change in Medical Education initiative. Brown was one of 11 schools to earn a grant out of the 120—or 85% of all US medical schools—that applied. “I think that really speaks to the innovation [at Brown],” says Skochelak.

Officially launching in fall 2015 and defined by integrated training in clinical and population medicine, Alpert Medical School’s combined MD-ScM program was designed to better train medical students to play a leadership role in addressing the mounting challenges facing health care.

The AMA team, also led by Mark Quirk, EdD, vice president of Education Outcomes, met with Jack A. Elias, MD, dean of medicine and biological sciences, Allan R. Tunkel, MD, PhD, associate dean for medical education, Jeffrey Borkan, MD, PhD, assistant dean for program planning, Paul George, MD, director of curriculum for the program, and other program leaders and faculty. They discussed the program’s defining aspects, including the population medicine component and longitudinal curriculum, during which third-year students will be mentored each week by physicians in the core clinical disciplines. These students will also manage a cohort of 70 to 100 of their own patients, allowing them to shadow patients throughout the health care system and stages of life and health.

“Visiting the school and meeting with the project leadership, the faculty and staff, and students provided an opportunity to understand the context of the Warren Alpert Medical School and the rationale for how the project will enhance the school’s mission and goals,” says Skochelak. “We learned specifics about the project that will allow us to speak knowledgably about it at national meetings.”

The themes of the 11 Accelerating Change in Medical Education AMA-funded proposals vary from patient safety to measuring competence to health care delivery. “When you put the components together, we think they have the elements of the medical school of the future,” says Skochelak.

Though not one program alone forms the basis of an ideal medical school, Brown’s program stands out for the AMA, Skochelak says, because the University has the support of the entire Rhode Island community. In addition to Alpert Medical School’s and Brown’s deans and directors, leaders from state government, Rhode Island’s health care systems, and other area universities also attended the morning session of the AMA visit, including Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts. The interprofessional nature of the meeting underscored a key direction for health care workforce education.

That level of involvement from the larger health care community is special, and something to capitalize on, says Skochelak. “All of these entities contribute to the vision and leadership of this new direction in medical education,” she says. “The Primary Care—Population Medicine program has the potential to have a deep and lasting impact on the health of the people in the state of Rhode Island.”


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