Doctor of Medicine (MD) Program
Total Health Curriculum
The Total Health Curriculum is built on the science of learning and uses an evidence-based approach to train skilled, compassionate physicians who provide individualized care of patients and promote health in the communities they serve. In addition to providing a fully integrated and immersive educational experience in basic, clinical and health systems sciences, the curriculum emphasizes six themes, including Health Equity and Justice, Health System Citizenship, Primary Care, Personal and Professional Development, Community Immersion and Population Health. These themes will guide the training of physicians who are resilient, collaborative and ready to assume leadership roles in evolving healthcare settings.
At Geisinger Commonwealth, we envision our curriculum as a tree, similar to the tree of knowledge that forms our seal. The roots correspond to Phase 1 – Principles of Medical Science and Practice, which encompasses foundational education rooted in basic, clinical and health system sciences. The trunk epitomizes Phase 2 – Core Clinical Immersion. With roots firmly planted, you will build a solid body of clinical experiences that begins early and grows in complexity and meaning. The trunk provides firm support for the branches, which represent Phase 3 – Career Differentiation and Exploration. You are now ready to branch off in your own direction. Following your core clinical experiences, you will progress in the development of advanced clinical skills and training that suits your individual interests and career goals.
Phase 1 includes three semesters and a capstone experience. The curriculum is organized into integrated, system-based blocks and features learning through the Clinical Presentation Model and other active learning formats. In this phase, clinicians and scientists work in concert to provide a consistent, clinically relevant and integrated understanding of basic science and clinical science knowledge. Early clinical experience in a primary care setting is also a feature of this phase. Phase 1 courses include Orientation, Integrated Sciences, Physician and Patient Centered Care and Preparation for Licensure. These courses feature our six curricular themes. Career development starts early in this phase as you progress through our Career Pathway Program.
Phase 2 contains a Transition to Clerkship/Orientation session, five clerkship blocks, bridge weeks, a Capstone experience and components of the required Career Pathway Program. Clerkship experiences include Family Medicine, Medicine, OB-GYN, Pediatrics, Neurology, Psychiatry and Surgery. Diagnostic Medicine is a component of all clerkship blocks. These core clinical experiences will provide a solid foundation for future development of advanced clinical skills and experiences in advanced specialty care.
Phase 3 includes required core clinical rotations, expanded elective exploration opportunities and a formal Transition to Residency component. Following your core clinical experiences, you will progress in the development of advanced clinical skills and trainings. A core set of experiences ensure that all graduates have the skills necessary to start any residency. This phase is also a time for a career exploration. With multiple specialties from which to choose, our clinical advisors will help you to identify which way to go. The career differentiation and exploration phase will help you to discern your own path forward to a career that will match your career goals.
Why choose Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine?
- The science of learning: The Total Health Curriculum uses an evidence-based, active learning approach to medical education that has been demonstrated to improve learning. The curriculum is also grounded in principles of cognitive science and uses learning strategies including metacognition, spaced repetition, interleaving, retrieval practice and elaboration.
- The Clinical Presentation Model: The Total Health Curriculum relies on decades of educational evidence and ensures basic science and other content receive necessary emphasis in clinical context. This approach creates mental models to enhance learning, increases clinical relevance of early educational experiences and promotes recall during the clinical years and later in practice.
- Earlier clinical experiences: Students are placed in the primary care setting in their second semester as part of the Longitudinal Clinical Experience. Students are placed in their core clerkship rotations in their second year.
- A team approach to teaching and learning: Clinicians and scientists work in interdisciplinary teams to create and implement the curriculum. This enhances the learning environment, provides clinical perspective and connects students early with Geisinger clinical faculty as role models and advisors for residency and specialty selection. Students also work in peer teams in class. These teams provide a supportive learning environment and help develop interpersonal skills necessary for medical practice.
- Research and Scholarship: Numerous opportunities exist for students to investigate research opportunities both within and outside of Geisinger and pursue supplemental funding to support their projects. Short and long-term research programs include the Summer Research Immersion Program and the Medical Research Honors Program. Students are provided multiple opportunities to present their research findings, including the annual Spring Research Symposium. Students can also submit their scholarly and creative work for publication in Geisinger Commonwealth’s journal for Scholarly Research in Progress (SCRIP).
- Career Pathway Program: The Personal and Professional Development Career Pathways Program is a four-year required longitudinal curriculum that embodies Geisinger Commonwealth’s mission and values. It lives within the Personal and Professional Development theme, integrated throughout our required courses. The program uses diverse instructional methodologies and includes a combination of self-assessments, interactive lectures, problem and case-based small group learning, panel discussions, residency application components, mock interviews, coaching and the e-portfolio. These activities support lifelong learning in the professional development process.
- Service learning: Service has always been integral to a Geisinger Commonwealth education. The Total Health Curriculum builds on this tradition by creating a more interconnected structure for immersion that collaboratively advances the work of our local service agencies. Our students work with our community partners on projects that meet their needs to help provide solutions for their challenges. Students immersed in these experiences will understand community needs, how agencies work to meet these needs and how medicine can partner to deliver better health for individuals, families and entire neighborhoods — skills that will remain with our graduates to improve communities anywhere.
Our six themes are longitudinal and cumulative curricular experiences that provide intentional emphasis and competency in contemporary aspects of medical practice. Thematic educational experiences start in the first year and continue as students matriculate in their medical training.
- Health Equity and Justice: Ensures awareness and recognition of existent historic inequities in medicine to establish the next generation of physicians as agents of change. Students will learn to recognize their own biases and practice cultural humility in their interaction with patients and colleagues. Geisinger Commonwealth is part of a multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary team developing an educational antiracism curriculum funded by the Josiah Macy Foundation that will enhance students’ knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors regarding social justice, equity and inclusion.
- Health System Citizenship: Prepares future doctors to contribute to quality improvement, participate in early adoption of technology and function in team-based models of care for improved patient care and healthcare delivery. This theme delves deeply into healthcare delivery science and leverages the strength of Geisinger’s value-based care model to focus on system improvement.
- Primary Care: Focuses attention on the most critical health need in the nation and centers the future physician’s approach on wellness and disease prevention, regardless of medical specialty.
- Personal and Professional Development: Supplies the tools, skills and knowledge necessary to promote lifelong learning and skill development, personal wellness and career development.
- Community Immersion: Enables students to develop meaningful relationships with the community through partnerships with local patients, families and agencies. Students engage in service learning with mentorship by community leaders and patients.
- Population Health: Leverages Geisinger’s signature programs to introduce future physicians to successful models that recognize and mitigate the social determinants of health that affect individual patients, neighborhoods, communities and populations.