CURRICULUM CHANGE – A Guinea Pig’s Perspective 

By Hayes Patrick, Class of 2019 (L2), Class President

Entering medical school in the middle of a curriculum change was an exciting, yet extremely intimidating experience. Not only did the Class of 2019 face the typical stressors of starting medical school, but we did so with a little extra uncertainty. However, while navigating a new curriculum added some anxiety at times – making us feel like we were guinea pigs swimming out into uncharted waters – we also knew that we were entering a medical school committed to improving our education and better preparing us to be Louisiana’s finest physicians. Because of that, our class commends Dean Nelson, Dr. Robin English and the Curriculum Renewal Committee, and the faculty for their tireless work over the last six years in planning and implementing the curriculum change with such success.

The original goals of the curriculum change, according to Drs. English and DiCarlo, were “increased integrated learning; reduction of time spent in lecture; increased emphasis on clinical skills teaching and evaluation; increased time devoted to specific content areas such as cultural competency, health systems, and interprofessional education; and more opportunities for career exploration and clinical experiences in the pre-clerkship curriculum.” Students and faculty agree that the new curriculum has accomplished these goals. After more than 3 semesters, our class has reaped many benefits from the new curriculum, as we constantly hear from older classes that “we have it so much better.”

The L2 class is currently in the middle of Step 1 planning and studying, and we can already recognize the benefits that the new curriculum had in our preparation for the exam. Learning the material through an integrated, systems-based approach and assessing ourselves with customized NBME Shelf exams after each block has already prepared us for the style and content we can expect on Step 1. In addition, many of the supplemental materials that students religiously use to study for Step 1 (e.g. First Aid, Pathoma, uWorld question bank) have already become familiar as we prepare for NBME Shelf exams throughout the school year. Although Step 1 scores were excellent at LSUHSC well before the curriculum change, we are optimistic that the new, integrated approach will benefit our performance this June.

Above all else, this curriculum change has emphasized the importance of clear and transparent communication between students and faculty. Dr. English said that even though the transition has “gone as expected, there have been some challenges that we didn’t anticipate.”  Growing pains that have come with the new curriculum, including scheduling issues or material that still needs consolidating, have required faculty and students to work together in order to resolve unexpected issues.

One of the Aesculapian Society representatives for the L2 class, Lucie Calderon, said, “the faculty have been extremely attentive to the suggestions presented by the Aesculapian representatives and have even been able to incorporate some changes real-time, which attests to their dedication to our learning and well-being.” Another Aesculapian representative, Greg Auda, added, “the curriculum has provided the opportunity for the students and faculty to answer to each other, and improve things for the future based on each other’s input…It truly is a team effort this year, which I hope is a trend that will continue.” While there is always more work to be done in improving our curriculum and our learning, it is reassuring to work with faculty so receptive to the concerns and suggestions of students.

We would like to thank Dean Nelson, the Curriculum Renewal Committee, the Course and Content Directors, and the many other faculty members involved in making the curriculum change possible. And we would like to give a special thank you to Dr. English (affectionately dubbed “Queen E”) for her constant and supportive presence in serving this medical school. Dr. English is an incredible leader among the faculty and students, and she has earned the utmost respect and admiration from the Class of 2019.