Translational Education at Carolina took shape in 2013, takes off in 2014

The UNC School of Medicine’s new MD curriculum, dubbed TEC, brings clinical experiences into the curriculum earlier, allows for personalized learning and individualized experiences, and integrates basic science and clinical training throughout all four years.

Translational Education at Carolina took shape in 2013, takes off in 2014 click to enlarge Julie Byerley, MD, MPH

UNC School of Medicine educators are preparing to implement a new medical student curriculum for students matriculating in August 2014. In the 2011 UNC School of Medicine Strategic Plan, the education committee proposed dynamic and dramatic changes for our medical student curriculum. As a result, a new curriculum taskforce was formed in late fall of 2012, and produced a report in early spring of 2013 that recommended the development of a new curriculum entitled Translational Education at Carolina (TEC).

Leading the planning efforts is Dr. Julie Byerley, SOM Vice Dean for Education, who succeeded Dr. Warren Newton, current Vice Dean and Director of the North Carolina AHEC program, in September 2013. Dozens of faculty, staff, and students participated in the planning process, and continue to devote many hours to the implementation of the new curriculum.

Although class size will remain the same at 180 students, this new curriculum will transform the way medical students learn the art and science of medicine by bringing together integrated basic science and clinical skills blocks, longitudinal patient care experiences, and flexible clinical experiences that give students opportunities in specialty fields well before they apply to residency programs.

Current students will continue the traditional curriculum path for the remainder of their time at UNC.

More details about the curriculum follow. Additional information, including a four-year calendar schematic, is available on the UNC MD curriculum website. The UNC MD curriculum redesign has the following goals:

Goal 1:  Advance clinical education earlier into the overall curriculum.

Method to accomplish this: 

  • Streamline the traditional four-year curriculum into three phases by shortening the current preclinical curriculum; students will begin their clerkships (the Application Phase) in March of their second year, a full four months earlier than is currently offered. 

Goal 2: Begin students’ personalized learning and career exploration earlier in curriculum.

Methods to accomplish this:

  • In June /July of their first year, students start career exploration through experiential activities in consultation with their college advisor.
  • Elective time for clinical rotations will begin in March of their fourth year, a full four months earlier than under the current curriculum.

Goal 3: Fully integrate basic science and clinical science throughout the curriculum.

Methods to accomplish this:

  • Four curriculum threads of medical science (TEC 1 – MS), patient-centered care (TEC 2 – PCC), population health (TEC 3 – PH), and professional development (PD) are the pillars of the first 18-month Foundation Phase and will continue throughout the Application and Individualization phases of the curriculum.
  • The medical science thread (TEC 1) will be delivered through 12 systems blocks.
  • Content coils (e.g., anatomy, biochemistry, histology, genetics, humanities, etc.) will be woven throughout the 12 system blocks and will focus student learning on basic concepts illustrative of each system.
  • TEC 2 – Patient-Centered Care (PCC) and Professional Development (PD) will occur in distinct courses in the Foundation Phase.
  • Increased use of team-based learning, student-led groups, and innovative technologies such as simulations will keep our students actively engaged in skills and knowledge acquisition.

TEC is composed of three phases over four years:

  • Foundation Phase (18 months): This phase will teach critical basic science concepts and information in an integrated fashion with patient care as the central focus. The phase has trimesters lasting about five months each. In each trimester, four broad content areas, called threads, will be covered. Thread 1, medical science (TEC 1 - MS), will cover organ systems; thread 2 will focus on patient-centered care (TEC 2 - PCC); thread 3 is devoted to population health (TEC 3 - PH); and thread 4 centers on professional development (PD). These four threads will also appear in the Application and Individualization phases.
  • Application Phase (12 months): The 48-week phase replaces the traditional clerkship year, and starts four months earlier than in our current curriculum. Thus, students can take career exploration electives earlier. Patient type / setting and inclusion of longitudinal clinical experiences are the organizing principles for this phase rather than the traditional departmental-based clerkships. An integrated and longitudinal curriculum will run throughout this phase.
  • Individualization Phase (14 months): This phase allows students extended time to tailor the curriculum to meet their educational and professional goals within the objectives of the overall curriculum. Required courses include two advanced core disciplinary-based experiences, two acting internships, a critical care experience, four electives, and a transition to internship block rotation. Students, working with an advisor, may select from optional tracks to help focus their electives. Examples include medical education, global health, rural / community medicine, and clinician-scientist.