Enriching our Curriculum, Diversifying Student Experience

Aug 31, 2016

Vice Dean Patricia HoustonVice Dean Patricia Houston Technology is revolutionizing the way people are engaging with their health care and the expectations they have of their experiences.

Our healthcare system is adapting to meet the challenges of the incremental costs of new technology and innovations, decreasing and aging infrastructure and health care consumers with new and increasing demands.

As physicians, we must embrace these innovations and adapt to change to provide the best care possible for our patients. And as teachers, we must do the same for our students.  

We are revitalizing the MD Program to address the evolving needs of our students and diversify the student body. This new generation of students learns differently. They want to actively participate and are eager to learn experientially. The start of this academic year marks the launch of our new Foundations Curriculum for the first two years of medical school. Over the past three years, we have carefully and collaboratively developed a curriculum that is highly integrated and responsive to the needs of our students and to the changing expectations of Canadians.

Through the Foundations Curriculum, we aim to not just prepare our students to meet the needs of today, but engage them to be the leaders of tomorrow. Unscheduled days devoted to self-learning give students time to gain clinical exposure in a variety of settings – providing an understanding of how to approach patient care in context.  Carefully selected eLearning materials enable students to learn at their own pace and provide the flexibility to pursue areas of medicine (and beyond) that they are passionate about.

Case-based learning empowers our students with responsibility and allows them to tailor their learning to their individual needs, while getting the essential feedback that lets them know if they are on track.

Our new assessment program includes frequent low-stakes assessments and multiple methods to assess a student’s progress, including a focus on self-reflection and faculty-guided self-assessment to promote a culture of life-long learning. Teachers are encouraged to build relationships with students as their advisors, mentors and advocates.

This longitudinal focus is also evident in our clerkship curriculum where we are increasing opportunities for students to participate in Longitudinal Integrated Clerkships (LInC). LInC students work longitudinally with a small number of preceptors, following a patient panel of 50-75 patients, experiencing all core clerkship disciplines simultaneously, rather than moving from one discipline to the next, as in the block clerkship. The success of the 2014-2015 pilot program, and the positive response from students and preceptors, has led to this year’s expansion to 27 LInC students across three out of four of our academies. Next year, we hope to have 50 LInC students (approximately 20 per cent of the class) in all four academies.  

To enrich our student experience and further diversify our student body, we are actively reaching out to students in under-represented minorities – early in their education – as we work to ensure U of T Medicine and tomorrow’s physicians look like the global city we serve. And, as a global university, U of T is also proudly welcoming US and international students to our MD Program. The spots available for US and international students will be in addition to the 259 seats currently offered to Canadian students, and will result in broadened clinical and research networks and increase the global fluency of our students.

Finally, we are working to provide opportunities for students to combine their medical education with graduate level studies in areas that complement their medical education such as biomedical engineering, public health and strategic leadership and innovation.  

Continuously responding to our ever-evolving education and health care context, we strive to nurture a positive and productive learning environment where students feel supported and well prepared to adapt to change and care for their patients collaboratively and holistically, as part of a health-care team.

Patricia Houston
Vice Dean, MD Program


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