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Curriculum: Molecules to Military Medicine

Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences
4301 Jones Bridge Road
Bethesda, Maryland 20814

Molecules to Military Medicine

Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

Q: Why did the USU School of Medicine reform its curriculum?
The USU School of Medicine updated its curriculum to keep pace with the changing needs of the military and public health systems. Evaluating our program and innovating the way students learn allows USU to stay on the cutting edge of medical education.

Our school is not alone in the challenge to create a revised academic blueprint. More than half of American medical schools have undertaken a major revision of their curricula in the last decade.

Q: When was the new curriculum launched?
The class of 2015 is the first to learn under the new model of scholarship. They began the new curriculum in the fall of 2011.

Q: Who designed the new curriculum?
Designing the new curriculum was a collaborative effort. At the helm, Drs. Alison O'Brien, Louis Pangaro and Arnyce Pock sought the advice and expertise of USU faculty members, students, alumni and leaders in the military and public health systems in order to understand what the future medical physician should look like.

Q: What changes were incorporated into the new curriculum?
The curriculum reform team analyzed various models of scholarship to understand which program elements best aligned with the mission of the USU School of Medicine. Goals of the new learning modality include: better integration of the basic and clinical sciences, earlier exposure to learning in the hospital setting and careful attention to assessing student competency throughout all four years.

The hallmark of excellence in military medicine continues as a core value in the new program.

Specific Questions

As the reform is progressing and the new curriculum takes shape, more specific questions are being asked. We will continue to add to the list below in order to give you the most current information possible.

Step 1 Preparation and Exam

Q: When students return to USU for Advanced Didactics & Step I in February of their MS-III year, will this mean that they'll have less time to visit prospective GME sites?
A: No! In fact, the revised curriculum actually allows for an increased number of clinical and/or elective rotations.

Q: With the Step I exam delayed until after completion of the core clinical clerkships, will Program Directors attending the late November/early December Joint Service GME Selection Board still have access to the scores?
A: Yes! Under the current plan, GME Program Directors would not only have access to scores from Step I exams, but they would also have access to scores from other key exams. These scores, coupled with the detailed narratives that are composed following the conclusion of each clinical rotation, provide a portrait of each student's strengths and abilities.

Core Clerkships

Q: Why are the traditional Core Clerkships (Surgery, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, etc) organized into 16 week blocks?
A: One of the goals of the revised curriculum is to provide an opportunity for some geographic continuity, allowing students to remain in a single location for a longer period of time. Not only does this give the faculty/staff a chance to get to know students better, it allows students to develop a more in-depth sense of the workings of a given GME site. It also provides some extended clinical continuity, as it may be possible to follow a patient from the inpatient environment to the outpatient milieu. An additional benefit is that it limits the need to learn a new set of rules and/or computer systems every 5-6 weeks.

Q: Since the Core Clerkships are organized into three 16-week blocks does this mean that students will be limited to a maximum of 3 different rotation sites? Do all clerkships need to be taken in the same location?
A: Not at all! The goal for the Class of 2015 was for each student to have at least one 16-week block of geographic continuity, and for the Class of 2017 to have an opportunity for two 16-week blocks of geographic continuity; however, that is an end-state goal. Some of the Core Clerkships as well as Clinical Electives will continue to be accomplished at various locations across the Military Health System (MHS).

The Capstone Project

Q: What does the "Capstone Project" refer to?
A: The Capstone program dedicates approximately three months of the post-clerkship period to participation in a unique experience, designed to promote self-directed discovery and advanced scientific inquiry. Interested students will be encouraged to explore potential Capstone opportunities and communicate with the elective mentors and Capstone Director near the end of their last clerkship block and during the board preparation period. They will apply for specific capstone opportunities during the first month of the BBB period. They will be notified of their selection and paired with the appropriate faculty mentor prior to completion of this period so that they can plan their electives accordingly. Capstone projects must focus on a basic science, clinical, global/public health, educational, or self-initiated theme, tailored to an individual student's interest.

The Capstone project itself is student-selected and implemented, and will be formally assessed upon completion. With guidance from the Office of Student Affairs, students and faculty will work together to ensure adequate progression on Capstone objectives as participating students progress through their final months of medical school. Once students are selected for a Capstone activity, they will work with their faculty mentor and the Capstone Director to prepare a brief Capstone plan and co-ordinate any preparatory requirements, and subsequent execution of the Capstone activity. Each individual area of interest is reviewed by a track-specific advisory group who will review these plans and will provide additional general advice to students, along with the Capstone Director and their assistant(s). Successful completion of a Capstone project will include a final public presentation (poster, podium presentation, or academic paper) that details the experiment or process conducted and the results obtained.

Q: Why is a Capstone Project important?
A: Completion of a Capstone Project is our way of fulfilling the growing expectation that U.S. medical students graduate with a solid understanding as to how new knowledge is generated, and that they are able to demonstrate competence in the areas of inquiry and analysis. (Inquiry being the new term for scholarship.).

Faculty-Oriented Questions

The Pre-Clerkship Curriculum

Q: Who will provide oversight and direction for development of each of the integrated modules?
A: Each of the integrated modules is led by a team of two Directors: one from the basic sciences and one from a clinically-oriented domain. The directors have responsibility for the content of their respective modules. In addition, all of the module directors meet on a bi-weekly basis to discuss and manage procedural elements that occur across the pre-clerkship curriculum, as well as any issues that may arise.

Q: Who is leading each of the integrated modules?
A: Module Director/Co-director List

Q: Where can the faculty see the "master plan" for the revised pre-clerkship period?
A: The pre-clerkship curriculum can be found on our "Molecules to Military Medicine Curriculum" page.

Q: How dependent is the new curriculum on Information Technology (IT)?
A: The curriculum can certainly be enhanced by the use of advanced IT, but pro-active faculty involvement is actually the more critical element. Advanced IT facilitates the use of spaced learning techniques and periodic self-assessments, both of which help reinforce retention of key concepts in clinical and scientific arenas.

Q: Has the infrastructure been capable of meeting the demands of the new curriculum as far as IT, military personnel, new hires, space and financial support?
A: We believe the needed infrastructure is in place to support implementation of the new curriculum. Specifically, that the pre-clerkship elements were ready as the class of 2015 entered this first phase in August 2011; that the clerkship elements were ready in January of 2013, and so forth.

In order to do so, the Course Directors and Departmental Chairs provided input, on a master spreadsheet, as to what additional resources — if any — they needed in order to support the new curriculum, as well as for the period in which the "old" and "new" curricula overlap. Once all the requirements were identified and a corresponding analysis completed, a prioritized list was developed and forwarded to the Dean for action and/or assistance, as appropriate, and some additional staff were assigned.

Q: Who are the Module Directors, how were they selected (volunteer or tasked), and how will they be compensated for their increased duties?
A: A sub-group of the Curriculum Reform Steering committee originally identified a slate of suggested Module Director/Co-Directors, that was reviewed and ultimately confirmed by the Dean of the USU School of Medicine.

Currently, the Assistant Dean for Curriculum and the Associate Dean for Medical Education work with the Council of Module Directors and the Dean of the School of Medicine to identify and confirm new and/or incoming Module Directors.

Although participation as a Module Director is voluntary and is currently regarded as an additional duty, the Dean is committed to recognizing and rewarding those who have dedicated themselves to making the new Molecules to Military Medicine curriculum a success.