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Messages from the Dean

The Online News Web site was officially launched on October 9, 1998. View the current message from the dean (below) or follow the links on the left to access previous messages. You may also conduct a search of previous issues. If you cannot locate a particular item, you can also contact the Online News editor for assistance.

Current Message

August 13, 2004

Dear Colleagues,

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has just released a report titled "Educating Doctors to Provide High Quality Medical Care." The report cites the need for medical education to undergo substantial changes to better prepare physicians for the nation's rapidly evolving health-care needs. It calls for strategies in several areas: promoting patient-centered medical care, ensuring that physicians are capable of providing high quality medical care, ensuring that medical students understand the various career options available, and improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the educational process.

UW Medicine's educational programs have already made substantial progress in addressing a number of the problem areas discussed in this report. Many reforms emanated from our recent comprehensive curriculum review. A key innovation has been the College program, in which medical students are assigned to one of five Colleges for the duration of their education and, within their College, a mentor and small group of peers. Through continuous bedside teaching in the second year with their mentor and small group, students have early, sustained patient-centered clinical experiences. The 30 College faculty members, who dedicate a substantial portion of their time to medical education, provide students with exceptional role models. These faculty have developed benchmarks for students that place a strong emphasis on basic clinical skills and professionalism. Other reforms resulting from the curriculum review--addition of a required four-week neurology clerkship, expansion of the surgery and chronic care clerkships, and initiation of a capstone course--provide our students with valuable new experiences.

The AAMC report cites the need to ensure that students work with members of the clinical faculty who are recognized to be outstanding clinicians and clinician teachers. Thanks to our long-standing WWAMI program, students in their clinical years work with some of the finest clinicians in the nation in community settings across five states. This is a remarkable opportunity that received strong praise from the site visitors in our last accreditation by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME). With the Wyoming state legislature's July 16 vote to support more students in that state's portion of the WWAMI medical education program and current discussions of expansion of medical student training in Spokane, the WWAMI program promises to have an even broader impact.

The AAMC report calls for medical schools to offer a variety of joint degree and research training programs, with flexibility in tailoring programs. In addition to the NIH-supported Medical Scientist Training Program, through which outstanding medical students are accepted each year to undertake both M.D. and Ph.D. degrees, UW Medicine has instituted other research opportunities. There has been a long-standing requirement for students to complete a mentored research project. The curriculum review added flexibility to this requirement by allowing students the option of completing an experience-based research project. Some students combine these research projects with service activities locally, in a WWAMI community, or internationally.

There are many ways in which we can improve our training programs further. We must use a continuous quality improvement approach to address problems in medical education as we do with patient care. Over the last few years, however, we have made strong inroads and are setting an example for the nation of proactive, positive educational change. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the very large number of faculty and staff who devote their time and professional expertise to medical education. Your hard work and dedication to education are greatly appreciated.

Paul G. Ramsey, M.D.
Vice President for Medical Affairs and
Dean of the School of Medicine

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