Trinity School of Medicine Launches Coordinated Curriculum

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We are excited to announce some substantial updates to the Trinity School of Medicine curriculum. These changes more directly align and integrate the courses to complement each other and improve student understanding and performance as they progress through their basic sciences.

First, some background. The Trinity School of Medicine curriculum committee is a group of department chairs, key faculty, the dean, and a representative of the Student Government Association (SGA). The SGA representative ensures that the perspective of students is taken into account, and ultimately has their final endorsement as changes are implemented.

Let’s unpack that diagram a bit. Key changes include that histology has been broken into two courses while physiology has been combined from two into one. This decision is the result of aggregate data, student feedback, curriculum design goals, and faculty insight. Simply put, students perform better in the applied conceptual thinking of physiology after they have a better foundational understanding of the concepts of histology and anatomy.

Other changes are the result of coordination of classes. Coordinated classes in a curriculum involve separate perspectives on the same topic being taught strategically and simultaneously. This has been proven time and again to not only help medical students better absorb material, but to also support immediate and clear understanding in an applied, medical capacity. For example, when term two’s anatomy course covers the gastrointestinal tract, histology will cover the the GI tract that same week. At the same time, in embryology, students will cover the development of that GI tract. Similarly, in terms three and four, pharmacology and behavioral sciences follow the same pattern, aligning psychopharmacological treatment with complex behavioral disorders to better instruct students in that “bigger picture.” These are just two of many examples across the new curriculum where teaching will weave together in useful, usable ways for our students.

Oregon McDiarmid, Trinity 6th term student, former SGA president, and curriculum committee student representative, is optimistic. “These new changes focus on lining up course curricula, allowing students to study topics from more than one perspective at a time, strengthening their understanding. Overall, I think these changes show a bright future for the students and emphasize the responsiveness of administration to student input.”

Further informing this new curriculum is the schedule of NBME comp exams. In the former incarnation of our courses, students had three comprehensive examinations in term two. This has been adjusted to now incorporate one exam into term one, leaving two in term two. More than just splitting up an intensive academic workload, this will now help Trinity’s incoming students “ramp” their expectations and workload accordingly, resulting in better outcomes overall. This approach has been very successful in our Individualized Learning Plan (ILP), and we’ve broadened its application in a few key ways through this new approach. 

This brings us to the ILP itself. You can read more here, but, the short version is Trinity School of Medicine’s ILP program splits the standard first two terms, MD 1 and MD 2, into three terms, ILP 1, ILP 2, and ILP 3. The traditional third and fourth terms, MD 3 and MD 4 are unaffected, ILP students fold into the “standard” track at this point.

Traditionally, ILP students have had fewer courses in the first term and “ramped” up in classroom hours until they were then folded into the traditional track. The spirit of this concept is still firmly intact, but careful evaluation and extensive feedback has lead the curriculum committee to evaluate the academic outcomes in the courses themselves as well as student input on individual course workload outside of the classroom. To address those factors, the ILP now ramps in “reverse” in total classroom hours, but still follows the traditional “ramping up” in total workload. The curriculum committee, faculty, and current Trinity students all agreed this was not only an effective compromise, but a useful addition to student success on the ILP track.

So, to recap, terms MD 3 and MD 4 are the same for ILP students as they are for the standard track students. The primary difference is in terms MD 1 and MD 2 are split over 3 terms (with, as always, no additional tuition cost to students) for ILP students. (Note: this means that MD 3 and MD4 are a bit of misnomer for those ILP students, as this is their 4th and 5th term on campus chronologically).

Speaking of terms MD 3 and MD 4, these are similarly re-organized, to emphasize both a more thoughtful, outcome-based distribution of work while also heavily emphasizing coordinated learning. Behavioral science has transitioned to term 4 to more effectively introduce psychiatric disorder and disordered behavior alongside the relevant pharmacology. Similarly, microbiology is also aligned with its coverage in pharmacology. Pathology is similarly aligned. This unifies much of the content from start to finish in term 4, creating a more holistic understanding between system, disorder, and (pharmacological) treatment. These changes now also finally balance out to four carefully selected courses in each term (outside of ILP) while also more equitably distributing the major and minor anatomies.

This is an exciting transition for Trinity School of Medicine and its students, and one taken after considerable deliberation, research, and effort. We look forward to the benefits it will bring to the entire student body in the future and are as excited as ever to welcome our students to our culture of supportive, thoughtful learning.

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