David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA launches new educational curriculum

Program designed to shape physician leaders in era of seismic change
A medical student performs an ultrasound under faculty supervision.
A medical student performs an ultrasound on a patient under faculty supervision.

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The COVID-19 pandemic, geopolitical reckoning and new technologies have ushered in an era of seismic change in science and medicine. To help future leaders in health and healthcare navigate these transformations, the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA has designed DGSOM Heals, a new curriculum capable of adapting to shifting needs and empowering students with the skills in greatest demand by patients, employers and communities.

“Our new curriculum serves as a dynamic educational blueprint for the physicians and scientists of tomorrow: data-driven, socially-minded and intensely committed healers who are united in our shared mission to advance the benefits of medicine for all,” said Dr. Steven Dubinett, interim dean of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. 

Launched in August 2021, the new DGSOM Heals curriculum equips students with interdisciplinary knowledge and facilitates firsthand experiences where students practice translating their knowledge into impact on patients, scientific research and the medical profession.

One City — A World of Clinical Experiences

One of the top ranked medical schools in the nation, the Geffen School’s location within the richly diverse city of Los Angeles provides a microcosm of the world at large. Medical students will have the opportunity to observe across a wide variety of clinical settings the spectrum of healthcare complexities that exist on an international scale.

As students interact with a range of patient populations, observe different diseases and collaborate with interdisciplinary healthcare teams, they will gain the skills and confidence they need to be effective and flexible clinicians in practically any situation, according to Dr. Clarence Braddock III, executive vice dean and vice dean for education.

“Our graduates will demonstrate the spirit of inquiry as a recognizable trait in everything they do,” said Braddock. “They will become constantly curious physicians who are evidence-based in their practice, embrace innovation and do so with a commitment to rigor.”

The new curriculum relies on the following cornerstones:

  • Early Authentic Clinical Experience. In this program, first-year medical students actively contribute to the care of patients in the community; apply concepts they’ve learned in the classroom; and develop the capacity for compassionate care, clear communication and cultural sensitivity. 
  • Scientific Foundations of Medicine. This course uses clinical applications to deepen learning of the scientific basis of health and disease. The goal is to empower learners to solve the medical problems they’re likely to encounter in future practice and have the habits of life-long learning.
  • Earlier and expanded clerkship opportunities. Clinical rotations will begin a full year earlier than before, allowing students to contribute sooner to patient care and to gain invaluable experience in their choice of specialties through eight core rotations: emergency medicine, surgery, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, neurology, psychiatry and family medicine.
  • DGSOM Discovery. This program enables third-year students to pursue a master’s degree or year of research, allowing them to explore areas of interest that complement their roles as future physicians. To continue growing their clinical skills during this experience, students will participate in a regular weekly longitudinal clerkship.
  • DGSOM Capstone. Geared to our graduating medical students, this course is aimed at ensuring their preparedness for clinical practice as interns, advancing specific communication skills needed for residency, strengthening inter-professional skills, and reaffirming commitments to address emerging priorities in medicine and science.

A Curriculum to Heal Humankind  

According to Braddock, the school’s new curriculum was guided by a core mission: To empower students to become physicians committed to excellence, and leaders in research, innovation, education, health, advocacy and humanistic care.

“Envisioning the future physician leaders described in our mission statement inspired faculty, staff and students to create a rigorous academic program that embraces anti-racist principles, humanistic care, our Cultural North Star values and the distinctive world views of each individual,” explained Braddock.

The goal, he emphasized, is to build an enduring blueprint for future leaders -- who are not only excellent practitioners adept at current techniques -- but also compassionate healers prepared and driven to evolve along with the needs of humankind.

To learn more about the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA’s redesign of its medical education curriculum, see DGSOM Heals.