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Features May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2

Future Physicians
By Debra Kain

The holistic and learner-oriented Integrated Science Curriculum, was introduced to the entering class in fall 2010.

"I like that the UC San Diego School of Medicine is embracing technology while not forgetting about the most fundamental of physician practices—all of which happens in the new building," says second-year medical student Katie Blair. "Medicine isn't about a single practitioner; it is a team effort and I think that the way the building is designed encourages interaction and discussion among colleagues."

The fast pace of medical discovery today requires physicians who are highly proficient, highly motivated and willing to constantly learn new skills in order to stay abreast of medical advances. The state-of-the-art Medical Education and Telemedicine building is designed to teach UCSD's next generation of doctors.

With a progressive new medical curriculum in place, the 99,000-square-foot Medical Education and Telemedicine building opened on the La Jolla medical campus in fall 2011. It is the first new medical teaching facility built since the UC San Diego School of Medicine was founded in 1968, and it incorporates the newest design standards and technologies in medical and surgical training.

"The days of the 'solitary genius' approach in science and medicine are over," says Jess Mandel, M.D., associate dean of undergraduate medical education. "Students can't just learn subject matter in classrooms and study carrels, take a test and learn how to be a physician. They need to talk as much about what they don't know as what they do know, ask questions and work with their peers to solve problems."

Maria Savoia, M.D., dean of medical education, agrees. "Today, medicine is a team sport," she says. "Physicians may lead the team, but it involves the expertise of many people including nurses, pharmacists, therapists, technicians and many others."

The foundation for this innovative learning environment is the Integrated Science Curriculum (ISC), three years in development, and introduced to the entering medical school class in fall 2010. Holistic and learner-oriented, the new curriculum focuses on clinical medicine and patient interactions. Traditionally, students spent the first two years of medical school in classroom lectures learning distinct subjects like biology, chemistry, physiology and pharmacology. They only began learning to apply this knowledge to the care of patients in the clinical setting in their second two years. The ISC rejects this compartmentalized structure, combining medical science and clinical practice from the first day of class.

To reinforce the focus of the new curriculum, from the first day, students are assigned to one of six learning communities, an affiliation they will maintain throughout medical school. Each community includes members from all class years. This gives newcomers built-in peer mentors and colleagues who can provide support and guidance as they face the challenge of medical school, and ultimately in the development of their professional identity. In addition, each learning community will partner with a community-based health program, to give students valuable hands-on public health and service learning experience from the beginning of their education.

With multiple lounges and study areas where the student learning communities can gather to study or relax, the new Medical Education and Telemedicine building reflects the team philosophy.

"I like that the UC San Diego School of Medicine is embracing technology while not forgetting about the most fundamental of physician practices—all of which happens in the new building," says second-year medical student Katie Blair. "Medicine isn't about a single practitioner; it is a team effort and I think that the way the building is designed encourages interaction and discussion among colleagues."

The facility's Clinical Skills and Simulation Center has 18 exam rooms, simulated hospital rooms, an intensive care unit and an emergency department. The medical and surgical teaching laboratories provide a high-tech setting where students, residents and practitioners can practice procedures on tiny blood vessels and nerves, and learn surgical, robotic and laparoscopic techniques. The Telemedicine Training and Consultation Center serves as a resource for physicians and students to collaborate and provide care to patients across long distances.

"In my mind, the integrated curriculum is building a clinical-centered scaffolding that will eventually help me think and problem-solve like the best diagnosticians, while never failing to emphasize the importance of patient-centered care," says second-year medical student Darrell Tran. "We feel especially fortunate to be pioneers for both the inspiring changes in the curriculum and the new state-of-the-art facilities."

Architecturally and technologically futuristic, these state-of-the-art facilities will meet the needs of students, faculty, physicians and the community for decades to come, according to David A. Brenner, M.D., vice chancellor for Health Sciences and dean of the School of Medicine. "We aren't content to be among the best medical schools," Brenner says, "but are also a model for how a medical school should function in the 21st century."

Center for the Future of Surgery

Every year, millions of patients undergo lifesaving surgeries. The outcome of each procedure is driven by dynamic factors such as the patient's health, drugs and instruments used, team communication, and the wisdom of the surgeon's hand. To advance safety and innovation in today's operating rooms, the UC San Diego School of Medicine recently unveiled the Center for the Future of Surgery (CFoS)—the largest state-of-the art facility in the nation dedicated to catalyzing novel surgical technologies, techniques and teaching methods.

"The Center is developing revolutionary surgical techniques that will change the way surgery is performed in the next decade," says Santiago Horgan, M.D., professor of surgery and CFoS director. "As a global training center, our ultimate goal is to develop safe methods that will result in better outcomes, less pain and faster recoveries for every patient."

An integral part of the new Medical Education and Telemedicine building, the CFoS is the most comprehensive facility to date, designed for multi-specialty training of medical students and faculty. From minimally to maximally invasive techniques, surgeons can access the newest operating platforms, training consoles and operating microscopes. The 22 training stations are located within 11,440 square feet of space and house the newest tools and cameras, representing $30 million in equipment.

"The Center is part of the wheel of innovation at UC San Diego," says Mark Talamini, M.D., professor and chairman of surgery at UC San Diego Health System. "To develop tools and techniques that are most safe for patients, surgeons and device manufacturers must exchange ideas and feedback. The Center can spur these interactions by bringing surgeons, engineers, scientists and designers into one room—outside the OR—to refine everything from laparoscopic cameras to robotics."

Debra Kain is director of research communications, UC San Diego Health Sciences.