Med 2010 helps medical students adjust to changes

The program’s goal is to revitalize the Medical School by the end of the decade.

Mike Enright

The University Medical School is trying to help students adapt to a rapidly changing health care world.

Now finishing its second year, Med 2010 – a program intended to revitalize the Medical School by the end of the decade – is aiding students in meeting the increasingly diverse challenges they’ll face in the professional world, said Kathleen Watson, Medical School associate dean, who has been part of the initiative since its inception.

Watson said the program is about changing the fundamental approach to educating future doctors.

“We are not rushing to define a new curriculum, we are trying to imagine a new type of medical education,” she said. “This isn’t about fixing what’s wrong with the med school; it’s about preparing for the future.”

The school launched the program in December 2004 and has been in the planning phase for almost two years.

“We wanted to be right,” she said. “We wanted to be visionary.”

Watson said this year marks a big step for Med 2010 because the development phase of the project began this fall.

“What we’re trying to do is move ahead with certain projects that are more concrete while we develop conceptually in areas our faculty and students and stakeholders think will really accelerate this process,” Watson said.

Some of these shorter-term projects include a tuition flexibility program and an electronic portfolio system, which is being piloted this fall.

The e-portfolios are meant to help students evaluate their own progress through school and help their mentors in guiding them, Watson said.

The tuition flexibility program, implemented last year, allows medical students to pursue their degrees at their own pace.

The program helps address cost issues by freezing tuition for students at its current rate for the year they enter school. Medical students must complete 11 semesters to earn a degree. The program allows them to take between 3.5 and six years to finish, while still paying for only 11 semesters, Watson said.

“The idea is to be competency-based, not time-based,” she said.

The key players in the Med 2010 program are its work groups – made up of faculty members, students and community members – which focus on different initiatives.

The groups cover areas such as mentoring, global health and disparities in health care quality.

Kola Okuyemi, a medical school associate professor and co-chairman of the disparities and health work group, said the groups and Med 2010 are good opportunities for the school to make some changes.

“Dean (Deborah) Powell and Kathy (Watson) made it clear that everything is on the table,” Okuyemi said. “And they have backed that up by the flexibility in the work groups.”

The initiative has been slow to develop, Watson said, because it has amassed loads of input, incorporating suggestions from faculty, students and community members.

Genie Bang, a fourth-year medical student and representative on the Med 2010 leadership group, said she was glad the school sought student input.

“Faculty and professors are really interested in what students have to say, which is refreshing to me,” Bang said.

While it is a little too early to tell, Bang said she thought the program will be successful.

“I think this year is going to get a lot of things rolling,” she said.

Although he’s been very impressed with the initiative, Okuyemi said, the school also needs to commit to teaching students to work in more diverse health care settings.

Second-year medical student Nathan Chomilo, a student in Okuyemi’s work group, said Med 2010 has potential, but he isn’t ready to jump on board just yet.

“I’ve been involved in processes before where they invite students in to talk and they listen to them, but then they don’t do anything about it,” Chomilo said. “A lot of students I’ve talked to about it are waiting to see what comes of it and then judge it from there.”