Faculty of Medicine celebrates 50 years

New curriculum aims to deliver better health care

by Hilary Thomson
Staff writer

A little red schoolhouse it isn't.

So says Bill Webber when asked to describe UBC's Faculty of Medicine.

"It's not about a single location with students coming in one end and leaving four years later with an MD," says Webber, a professor of Anatomy and former dean of the faculty. "We're teaching in hospital residency programs, graduate research labs, rural family practices and we have a very busy continuing medical education arm as well."

The faculty began renewing its undergraduate curriculum in 1997.

Early clinical experience, integration across and between clinical and basic sciences, and an emphasis on social responsibility are keyto the program which builds on the success of the former curriculum.

Webber is one of more than 200 tutors in the new curriculum, which replaces the former first and second years for both medical and dental students.

"It's a delight to have this kind of contact with students," says Webber. "They are diverse, interesting and fun -- these are not one-dimensional people."

"We're not looking just for academic excellence -- we're trying to supply the kind of doctors the public wants," says Associate Dean, MD Undergraduate Program, Wes Schreiber. "To succeed in the new curriculum and as doctors, we need students who are good communicators, well-rounded and sensitive to the issues surrounding health care today."

Problem-based learning that relies on tutorials lies at the heart of the new program. Students play a central role in identifying learning issues and objectives and in providing feedback about the design and delivery of the program.

In addition to five or six lectures, the new curriculum calls for three tutorials per week related to that week's selected case. The patient case, which can range from normal pregnancy to pneumonia, is used as a springboard for instruction on every aspect of the problem from anatomy to ethics. The students determine learning objectives.

"There was a daily incentive to research and present new, interesting and understandable information to your classmates for the next tutorial," says Omar Nazif who has just completed the first two years of the curriculum.

In addition to the learning blocks which are organized around body organs and systems, three other courses are held weekly throughout the two years.

In the Family Practice course students attend at a general practitioner's office. The Clinical Skills course puts students at teaching hospitals. The innovative Doctor, Patient and Society course looks at the social, economic and ethical aspects of medical practice. Topics range from end of life issues to responsibility to colleagues.

A new third-year clerkship exposes students to specialty areas such as Surgery and Pediatrics in one- to eight-week intensive terms at hospitals, clinics and doctors' offices.

The new curriculum will be fully implemented by fall 2001.

See also:

Message from the Dean

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Researcher tracks genetic roots of MS

Nobel laureates join in celebration

Faculty of Medicine facts