Penn State College of Medicine plans to flip medical education on its head and it will utilize the help of incoming students to do so.
Six to eight students will be selected to participate for a year in shaping a new curriculum at the College of Medicine’s regional campus in University Park. Students currently applying to the College can also apply to be considered to be design partners.
“We’re looking for people who have a creative mindset,” said Dr. Terry Wolpaw, vice dean for educational affairs. “We want student design partners who can embrace innovation, who are willing to think in fresh new ways about medical education, who will very much enjoy and want to partner side-by-side with faculty, and who are willing to be trailblazers with new techniques and new ideas.”
Design partners will work with faculty for a year to test the new curriculum to see what works, what doesn’t and what can be done better.
The student participants will receive a stipend during the year that they work as design partners and will receive scholarship aid starting in July 2017 when they begin medical school.
“We’re going to create a new curriculum for medical school and have these people actually experience it,” said Dr. Jeffrey Wong, associate dean for medical education at the regional campus. “They’re going to come back and tell us what works, tell us what doesn’t work, and hopefully provide suggestions and alternative for improving it.
The Hippocratic Oath says first, do no harm. This pledge is exemplified by not only the physicians at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center but also facilities staff who maintain the campus grounds.
The campus is undergoing an ongoing transformation to beautify the grounds and create a sustainable and environmentally-friendly campus. Changes are incorporating more native plants which have less environmental impact and addressing safety concerns.
“We want to create a beautiful environment for our patients, visitors, staff and our community,” said Terry Kreiser, associate director of facilities. “We also want to do what’s right for the environment – the water quality, the air quality – and the wildlife and pollinators.”
The Penn State Hershey campus includes about 552 acres of land with over 420 acres of grass, farmland, woodland, pastures, athletic fields, retention basins, gardens and courtyards.
A master plan was developed to address campus landscaping that has reached or surpassed life expectancy while also looking at safety.
Editor’s note: This story is one in an occasional series highlighting a relationship between Penn State College of Medicine and Mountcrest University College in Ghana.
Medical students in the United States don’t generally have to worry about things like unreliable electricity and Internet service. This is not the case in rural Ghana, where Mountcrest University College (MCU) is preparing to open the first private medical school in the country. Without reliable service, students are more dependent on printed materials than the digital resources available to their American counterparts.
As part of an ongoing partnership, Penn State College of Medicine library staff recently loaded two, 40-foot containers with donated materials bound for Mountcrest. This was the second donation from the College of Medicine since the inception of Mountcrest’s medical school last year.
The College of Medicine is in the process of renovating the George T. Harrell Health Sciences Library, requiring staff to cull large amounts of printed materials from its collection.
“This was a really opportune moment in time where we had this massive amount of materials that we were going to be removing because Penn State University Libraries has electronic access to the materials and the real estate is more valuable than functioning as a book archive,” said Cynthia Robinson, director, George T. Harrell Health Sciences Library.
This allowed Mountcrest to receive a significant amount of materials for only the cost of shipping.
For researchers early in their careers, it’s not just funding that matters—mentorship is also critical for success.
Dr. Dan Morgan has been studying cannabinoid signaling in the brain. Dr. Greg Lewis recently developed simulation software for fracture surgeries. Dr. Joslyn Kirby investigated bundled payments for management of a skin condition. These three Penn State College of Medicine doctors received guidance from senior researchers, along with $200,000 to fund their research, through the College’s Junior Faculty Research Scholar Awards program.
The program, launched in 2011, provides support to early-stage investigators in basic, clinical, and translational science research.
“It’s a way for us to jump start the research programs and career development of researchers here,” says program co-director Dr. Sarah Bronson, who is also director of Research Development and Interdisciplinary Research and co-director of the Junior Faculty Development Program. “We put equal weight on funding the scholar’s research program and recognizing a career and development plan that is going to make that research program happen.”
To that end, applicants don’t just propose the research they want to do. They also submit mentorship “dream team”—at least three experienced investigators who will provide advice and assistance in developing and executing a research proposal and a career development plan. The mentoring team meets with the scholar a minimum of once every six months.
Each scholar’s award is named to honor the contributions of senior investigators at Penn State Hershey who made a difference through their own research and through the mentoring of colleagues and trainees.
Lisa Brown was on mission to find fresh basil. The only problem was that she didn’t really know what it looked, smelled, or tasted like. And Harrisburg’s Broad Street Market had so many leafy green vegetables that she didn’t know where to start.
As a participant in Penn State Hershey’s Prevention Produce program serving women in transitional housing, she was excited to try a new recipe, even though it called for an herb she wasn’t familiar with.
“I never bought that before,” she said.
When she finally found a bunch, Brown wrinkled up her nose, but conceded the basil might taste better than it smelled – especially in a recipe.
Prevention Produce is part of a larger Food as Medicine program led by medical students and was launched by students at Penn State College of Medicine last year. Food as Medicine – or FAM as it is known – also oversees a plot in the community garden on the Penn State Hershey campus that is used for donations to charitable initiatives, and is developing efforts to change the hospital inpatient food menu, among other projects.
While national attention is being drawn to the issue of inaccurate or delayed medical diagnoses, Penn State Hershey has been actively addressing issues that can lead to diagnostic errors with programs from medical education through to the clinic.
The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine brought attention to the issue last week when it presented eight recommendations in its report, “Improving Diagnosis in Health Care.
The recommendations are a follow-up to the Institute of Medicine’s 2000 landmark report “To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System,” and 2001’s “The Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century,” both of which influenced patient safety measures at healthcare systems nationwide.
Dr. Timothy Mosher, chair, Penn State Hershey Department of Radiology, said that collecting accurate data to measure the scope of diagnostic errors is difficult. The issue is often underestimated. According to the institute’s report, most people will be victims of diagnostic error to one degree or another at some point in their lives.
“That fact itself should be enough of an attention-getter,” Mosher said. “We have to develop better systems.”