Design and Implementation Process of Discovery Curriculum

In 2016-17, Stanford’s MD program underwent planning and redesign in an effort to increase the modularity and flexibility in our curriculum and create a three-year pre-clerkship option for students who want substantial open time for longitudinal scholarship. Dean Lloyd Minor’s charge to the curriculum reform effort, in addition to increased flexibility and modularity, included identifying structural changes in the curriculum that would enhance medical student training and education, improve faculty engagement in teaching, and maintain our outstanding clinical preparation for residency. The curriculum redesign process officially began in December 2015, and the following phases capture the design process that led to the Discovery Curriculum.

Phase 1: Development of Guiding Principles

In December 2015, the curriculum redesign process officially launched when two major committees, the Scientific Foundations of Medicine (SFM) Committee and the Preparation for Patient Care (PPC) Committee, were formed to examine our pre-clerkship curriculum and develop recommendations for improving content and pedagogy, student assessment, faculty engagement, and curricular structure. Faculty, educational staff, and medical students were brought together in these committees to build consensus on how to best educate and train physicians, scientists, and leaders in medicine. The recommendations they developed were endorsed by the Dean’s Senior Advisory Committee, a leadership group that provided high-level oversight throughout curriculum redesign and served as guiding principles for the Discovery Curriculum.

Phase 2: Design of the Curricular Grid

In March 2016, the SFM and PPC committees began deliberations about improving the curricular grid. Many proposals were considered during this year-long design process. The new curricular grid that emerged preserves many components of the previous curriculum, introduces new courses and improvements based on guiding principles, and creates a three-year pre-clerkship option for students who want more open time for scholarship during medical school. After revisions and refinements, the structural design of the Discovery Curriculum was approved by the Committee on Curriculum and Academic Policy, the Stanford Medical Student Association, and the Stanford Medical School’s Faculty Senate.

Phase 3: Implementation of the New Curriculum 

In June 2017, implementation began on some components of the Discovery Curriculum for the matriculating class of 2017-18. The first features of the Discovery Curriculum successfully launched in fall 2017 and include new courses, improvements to existing courses, and the three-year pre-clerkship option for a selected group of medical students. A new certificate and a new Master of Science in Biomedical Discovery is being explored as joint degree options for medical students completing their pre-clerkship education in 3 years. 

Thank you to faculty, staff, and students who participated in curriculum redesign.

Committees Currently Active in Implementing the Stanford Discovery Curriculum

  • Committee on Curriculum and Academic Policy (CCAP) oversees the implementation of the new MD curriculum, ensuring integration and alignment of the educational program. CCAP must approve any changes concerning the curriculum for the MD degree program.
  • Implementation Planning Committee orchestrates the implementation process and oversees the progress of subcommittees to ensure outcomes align with the design and principles of Curriculum Redesign efforts. 
  • Operations Committee implements the recommendations and deliverables from subcommittees, manages logistics and resources, and maintains two curricula during the transition period. 
  • Educational Planning Committee implements the structural features of the new curriculum and sets guidelines for innovative delivery modalities to be utilized in new and existing courses.
  • Student Assessment Committee sets guidelines for assessments that emphasize more effective methods of testing critical thinking and application of knowledge than conventional multiple choice exam questions. 
  • Teaching and Mentoring Committee implements innovations and improvements in pedagogy and teaching skills throughout pre-clerkship education.  
  • Evaluation and Outcomes Committee designs and implements a comprehensive evaluation plan that monitors and measures the effectiveness and outcomes of the Discovery Curriculum over time. 
  • Student Scholarship Committee identifes and designs scholarship opportunities for students in all learning pathways.   

Diagram of All Curriculum Implementation Committees