Preparing Physicians for the Future: A Program in Medical Education

Field of Work: Facilitating major undergraduate curriculum reform in U.S. medical schools to demonstrate that medical schools can substantially change the basic science and clinical education of medical students.

Problem Synopsis: By the late 1980's, there was widespread concern that the growing body of basic science information had created a factual overload in the medical student curriculum. RWJF was also concerned and that the primary site of clinical education for medical students—the tertiary care hospital—no longer provided an adequate learning experience about the course and treatment of disease.

Synopsis of the Work: Preparing Physicians for the Future: A Program in Medical Education facilitated undergraduate curriculum reform in the funded U.S. medical schools. RWJF awarded 12 planning grants and eight implementation grants, in the expectation that innovations at selected schools would spread other medical schools.

Key Findings

  • An evaluation by Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Boston found that:

    • While significant change occurred at the schools funded by the program, other changes—such as fundamental changes in governance, curriculum innovations, and influence throughout the larger medical school community—were minimal.
    • The RWJF evaluation staff seconded these conclusions. However, members of the RWJF program staff and participants disagreed, some believing the objectives and methodology of the evaluation led to misleading conclusions.