This installment of the How We Learn Defines How We Care series of stories, which highlights the changing face of medical education at the College of Medicine, examines the new comprehensive Discovery Pathways Program. The new research requirement is part of the medical school’s revised curriculum, designed to rely less on passive learning and more on active learning methods. To accommodate the new curriculum and its innovative teaching approaches, the college plans to build a new medical education facility.
Islande Joseph speaks fluent Creole, but has few memories of Haiti.
This summer, the first-year UF College of Medicine student, who left the island nation when she was in preschool, will return there to spend 10 weeks working with researchers from UF’s Emerging Pathogens Institute. She will work on one of several infectious disease projects being conducted in Haiti at a UF-established lab.
Over the next four years, Joseph will perform research abroad and develop a sustainable global health project as part of the college’s local and global health equity pathway.
“By working on a project in Haiti I’ll be able to apply a lot of what I’m learning in school,” she said. “I also think it’s important that you know where you come from and try to help.”
By the time she graduates, Joseph will be trained as a physician who understands how to develop an international health program, said J. Glenn Morris Jr., MD, MPH & TM, director of UF’s Emerging Pathogens Institute and Joseph’s mentor.
“She would be poised to move into a career in global health,” Morris said. “I hope what she learns in this program will become a part of who she is in her career.”
Joseph won’t be the only UF College of Medicine student embarking on a journey of discovery.
As the College of Medicine transitions to a revised medical education curriculum and innovative learning environment, it will introduce a new, comprehensive Discovery Pathways Program this year designed to help students identify an area of academic study that matches their passion.
“I believe we are one of the first medical schools in the country that accommodates learning communities within specific pathways,” said Michael L. Good, MD, dean of the College of Medicine. “This innovative approach will help arm our graduates with the kind of leadership skills and vision needed for improving health and health care in the future.”
By requiring all students, beginning with the class of 2017, to complete a research project, UF joins the ranks of other top medical schools that require research for graduation.
“This is the trend across leading medical schools — to build a discovery program into the core curriculum,” said Gregory Schultz, PhD, the Pathways course director and UF Research Foundation professor of obstetrics and gynecology.
UF’s Pathways program offers five pathways, ranging from global health to medical humanities, expanding the scope of scholarly research beyond laboratory work. Learners in all pathways discover, through their four years of study and with the guidance of a faculty mentor, how to lead, advocate and advance the improvements they want to make in health sciences and health care.
“I realized UF was the perfect fit because it offered me an opportunity to do a nontraditional MD/PhD.”
– Martin Wegman, third-year MD/PhD student
In the past, many first-year UF medical students have participated in the college’s Medical Student Research Program, which involves lab research for 10 weeks during the summer. The Pathways program is different in that it broadens the range of research topics to include those beyond traditional lab research and results in a long-term scholarly project.
“I think the Discovery Pathways Program will produce better medical students,” said Schultz. “They’ve got to have these research tools to be lifelong learners.”
When third-year MD/PhD student Martin Wegman was an undergraduate biomedical engineering student at the University of Rochester, he conducted lab research, but it was a six-month public health fellowship in South Africa that helped him find his passion for health care disparities research.
“I realized UF was the perfect fit because it offered me an opportunity to do a nontraditional MD/PhD,” said Wegman, who has spent the past three years working with Elizabeth Shenkman, PhD, chair of the department of health outcomes and policy and director of the UF Institute for Child Health Policy.
First-year medical students who know what they want to specialize in can choose research in that specialty, but some pathways can apply to any area. For example, Mark Correa, who is still undecided about his specialty, plans to pursue the patient safety and quality pathway.
“I wanted a broad topic that could apply to any specialty,” said Correa, who has an interest in hospital administration.
The global health equity pathway will expand the international experiences available to medical students, said David Wood, MD, MPH, a professor of pediatrics at the UF College of Medicine-Jacksonville and program director for the college’s International Medical Education programs.
“My belief is the global health experience will teach students technical skills, and it also will change their hearts about what they want to do with their lives,” he said.
The plan is to incorporate the spring service trips into long-term sustainable international projects that involve partnering with universities and organizations in that country, as opposed to more short-term service trips, said Wood, who is the co-track leader for the local and global health equity pathway.
“My belief is the global health experience will teach students technical skills, and it also will change their hearts about what they want to do with their lives.”
– David Wood, MD, MPH
Wood described a partnership the college forged in Ecuador with the Universidad San Francisco de Quito College of Medicine. Wood is collaborating on public health research with that college’s dean, Gonzalo Mantilla, MD, who completed his pediatrics residency and neonatology fellowship 30 years ago at UF, and Fernando Ortega, a medical anthropologist at USFQ.
First-year medical students Ryan St. Pierre-Hetz, Amber Himmler and Faiz Jiwani will travel to Ecuador this summer to assist in the research alongside Wood and Mantilla. St. Pierre-Hetz and Himmler were UF junior honors students who are adept at lab research but now want to follow their passion for helping to improve health on a global scale.
“This program provides another aspect to medicine — something you can work on for four years, making it a substantial project that could make a real difference,” said Himmler.
Areas of exploration
- Medical Education
- Medical Humanities
- Medical Informatics
- Medical and Health Sciences
– Biomedical, Clinical and Translational Research
– Patient Safety and Quality
– Health Outcomes and Policy
– Local and Global Health Equity