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A message from the vice dean

Today’s physicians are faced with an increasingly complex healthcare system that requires deft coordination, cultural humility, a strong commitment to equity, astute clinical reasoning and a commitment to the promotion of health. At Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine, we are leveraging the strengths of Geisinger and our healthcare affiliates at Guthrie and AtlantiCare, to provide students with the tools needed to become leaders in our evolving healthcare systems.

To accomplish this, we have unveiled the Total Health Curriculum. This curriculum will build on emerging neurobiological evidence on knowledge acquisition, skill development and wellness to shape a robust approach to medical school teaching and learning. In addition, Geisinger’s longstanding commitment to community engagement, patient access and clinical excellence has a been a driving force in shaping our particular approach to medical education.

The pandemic has served as a clarifying agent and revealed effective learning strategies and priorities that are now our guideposts. You will learn more about our Total Health Curriculum as you peruse these webpages, but here is a broad view of our approach:

The 34 MD program objectives of the new curriculum derive from our six competencies that clarify what it means to be a Geisinger Commonwealth physician. In addition, the unique character of a Geisinger Commonwealth education is epitomized by 6 themes that are integrated over the 4 years of our curriculum. These themes underscore Geisinger’s point of view regarding societal need, wellness, professional responsibility and the needs of patients and their community. Through them, we hope to inspire skilled, compassionate physicians who provide individualized care of patients and promote health in the communities they serve. Through our curriculum, Geisinger Commonwealth graduates are resilient, collaborative, ready to participate and to assume leadership in evolving healthcare settings.

Finally, the structure of our curriculum may look different (Clinical Presentation Model) to students accustomed to viewing medical education as four distinct and separate years of learning. We view medical education in phases – principles, core clinical immersion and differentiation and exploration – all which inform and support the others throughout our students’ education. Phase 1, or Principles of Medical Science and Practice, is an 18-month continuum of learning with early clinical experiences infusing the basic sciences and research opportunities. Phase 2, or Core Clinical Immersion, includes 12 months of clinical learning, with a focus on specialties within our educational institutes: internal medicine, surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, inpatient pediatrics, psychiatry, neurology and radiology. An integrated ambulatory block will focus on family medicine and outpatient pediatrics, musculoskeletal medicine and geriatrics. This yearlong experience culminates in a “capstone” experience that integrates all learning from the core clerkship and prepares students to transition to advanced clinical training. The 16-month Phase 3, or Career Differentiation and Exploration, has three components: required core rotations, electives and required activities like preparation for residency, and scholarly and research requirements.

Learning at Geisinger, like medicine at Geisinger, takes a holistic approach. We acknowledge that doctors learn basic science because it helps them to understand wellness and disease. But when educators separate basic science education from its clinical ramifications – as traditional early medical education often does – students can lose the connections between areas like anatomy and biochemistry and actual patient care. Our approach, viewing medical education as an interlocking continuum, never loses sight of the big picture, which is effective, culturally competent and caring medical practice.

Education at Geisinger is designed to give you a patient- and community-centered education. Our curriculum will challenge you; it will reward you and it will set you on a path to a career that is rich and meaningful because of the way in which you were formed. Medical education is an incredible journey. We wish you luck as you take your first steps on the adventure.