School of medicine heralds new building, curriculum

Katelyn Boone

Contributing Writer

As VCU rapidly expands and updates its facilities across both campuses, MCV is updating their academic framework as well. The state-of-the-art renovation of the McGlothlin Medical Education Center will help facilitate the medical school’s new C-3 curriculum, according to Dr. Susan DiGiovanni, the assistant dean of medical education.

“There will be no place exactly like our curriculum or our building. They were designed to go together,” DiGiovanni said.

The James W. and Frances G. McGlothlin Medical Education Center is 12 stories tall and 200,000 square feet. The $203.4 million project will meet the United States Green Building Council’s criteria for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design’s (LEED) Silver certification. The building is designed according to the highest green sustainable energy standards.

The building also comes with new curriculum for the medical school. DiGiovanni has been a planner to the new curriculum since its beginning development. The plan for the curriculum began in 2008 when the medical school held focus groups of faculty, hospital staff and students to identify the knowledge, skills, behaviors and attitudes that would best serve VCU graduates and their future patient population.

“We call the new curriculum ‘C-3’ because it is centered on the learner, clinically driven and competency based,” DiGiovanni said.

The committee made it a goal to eliminate student cramming for exams and instead build a system to facilitate knowledge retention. The new course of study focuses on the learner and their clinical application as much as possible.

“The new curriculum will as much as possible eliminate the large lecture hall. Students will be taught through a variety of methods including case-based learning, team-based learning, problem-based learning and Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning,” DiGiovanni said.

Students will pre-read, watch a lecture at home, or attend a lecture in large lecture halls. Afterward, they will meet in smaller groups in the “Learning Studios” in the  McGlothlin Medical Education Center. Each table in the learning studios will be capped at six people, and are all outfitted to accommodate laptops. Each table also has a computer screen at the head of the table that allows students to share information on their computer with their group members. Instructors will also be able to project information on all computers in order to direct students’ conversation.

While students learn from one another, they will apply the material directly in clinical scenarios. Medical students will be focusing on case studies that apply not only the necessary knowledge of the basic sciences, but also pathophysiology (the study of disease).

“I’m so excited about the new curriculum. It will encourage us to make connections between what we are learning and its clinical applications,” said Chelsea Olson, a VCU senior majoring in Spanish and a part of the Guaranteed Admission to Medical School Program. “It means that when we enter medical school, the new curriculum will be dynamic, challenging and engaging … it’s awesome.”

Billy Eggleston, a second-year medical student who hopes to pursue primary care or rehabilitation medicine, noted that working with others has created a familial bond.

“The goal (of the new curriculum) is to get people to work together. It’s the way medicine works now,” Eggleston said. “You are relying on your co-workers — whether they are doctors, nurses, occupational therapists or such — and they are equally relying on you.”

The curriculum timeline is also making a dramatic shift. The new setup will shorten the preclinical curriculum to a year and a half, as opposed to the current two-year method. Students will learn normal and abnormal health at the same time. This integration of information is meant to help students grasp why they are learning the concepts and help them retain the information more effectively.  

“Students will spend the (second year of medical school) learning more parts to the physical exam, completing their toolbox so to speak, and practicing these newly learned skills on standardized patients,” DiGiovanni said.

To help hone their skills, students will work with simulations in the brand-new Center for Human Simulation and Patient Safety. Two floors of the McGlothlin Center will be dedicated to the Center, which will allow students to practice their medical education through physical exams of state-of-the-art dummies, actors or one another. The cases portrayed in the Center will then be studied by the groups in the Learning Studios.  

In keeping with the medical school’s core values of exceptional care beyond diagnosis and treatment, new medical students will begin to exercise patient advocacy from the start of their education.

Upon entering the medical program, students will be given the opportunity to be paired with a senior citizen for 18 months. They will partner with three other students from nursing, pharmacy and social work to ensure the well-being and overall health of the patient and will accompany the senior citizen to doctor’s appointment in order to see the practice of medicine from the patient’s point of view.

The goal is to not only develop professional interdisciplinary collaboration, but also an understanding of advocating the best care care for one’s patient.

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