Key Features of Discovery Curriculum

Stanford’s MD program has been redesigned with the end goal of increasing the flexibility and modularity of the curriculum. Central to that goal is the creation of an option for medical students to complete the pre-clerkship curriculum in three years rather than two years, resulting in substantial open time for longitudinal scholarship. Stanford's Discovery Curriculum emerged from planning and redesign efforts in 2016-17. The new curriculum features selected redesigned elements that improve the education and training of students and enable more individualized pre-clerkship pathways. The first cohort of students to experience the Discovery Curriculum is the matriculating class of 2017-18. Key features of the Discovery Curriculum is outlined below. 

1.      2-year and 3-year Pre-clerkship Options

Only at Stanford, the Discovery Curriculum enables students to complete their MD Program at a more individualized pace, introducing a greater diversity of learning pathways available to students. Depending on their unique goals and pursuits at Stanford, students can complete the pre-clerkship curriculum at full pace in two years or at a slower pace in three years. During the first year, all students will complete the same courses at the same pace. In the autumn quarter of the second year, students can complete the remainder of their pre-clerkship curriculum at full pace or apply for the option of splitting the course workload over two years. Students who are approved for the three-year option will have substantially more open time to pursue independent research, a dual degree, or other longitudinal scholarship and leadership activities. The course requirements, learning objectives, and assessments will be the same for two-year and three-year pre-clerkship students. The three-year option is selective with an application process; we expect the majority of students initially to opt for the traditional two-year pre-clerkship option. The three-year pre-clerkship option will be available as of August 2018.

2.      Improvements to Coursework

The Discovery Curriculum introduces new courses and restructured courses. The new courses provide students with earlier clinical experience, a robust education in pharmacology, repeated exposure to core concepts, and deeper exploration of advanced topics. As part of continuous quality improvement, some existing courses have been restructured or redesigned according to feedback from faculty and students. All course changes impact only the pre-clerkship curriculum, with the exception of the Reflections, Research, and Advances in Patient Care course (RRAP), which is taken during the clerkship years. The total class hours in the Discovery Curriculum are approximately the same as in the former curriculum. The matriculating class of 2017-18 will be the first cohort to experience all of the course changes.


New Courses:                                                            

  • •Cells, Signaling, and Regenerative Medicine  
  • •Pharmacological Treatment of Disease (PTD) series
  •           Introduction to Pharmacological Treatment of Disease
  •           Pharmacological Treatment of Disease A
  •           Pharmacological Treatment of Disease B
  • •Pathophysiology
  • Advanced Clinical Problem-Solving


Restructured Courses:                                                            

  • Anatomy
  • Histology
  • Clinical Embryology
  • •Science of Medicine 
  • •Practice of Medicine (POM)  
  • •Reflections, Research, & Advances in Patient Care (RRAP)  


Course Highlights

The Pharmacological Treatment of Disease (PTD) series provides students with a robust education in pharmacology through these courses: Introduction to Pharmacological Treatment of Disease (embedded in the cardiology and pulmonary modules at the beginning of the spring quarter, year 1), Pharmacological Treatment of Disease A, and Pharmacological Treatment of Disease B.

Pathophysiology and Clinical Problem-Solving are capstone courses at the end of the pre-clerkship curriculum. These courses provide a deeper exploration of advanced topics and repeated exposure to important concepts and to multi-systemic diseases.

Clinical Embryology and Cells and Signaling in Regenerative Medicine are smaller courses that emerged from efforts to restructure the former Developmental Biology course, improve pedagogy, and showcase ground-breaking work in regenerative medicine.

Science of Medicine, formerly Human Health and Diseases (HHD), has been restructured to primarily focus on physiology, pathology, and pathophysiology to improve pedagogy and increase modularity in the pre-clerkship curriculum. Science of Medicine will be taught via an organ systems model, and alignment between topics taught in Science of Medicine and Practicum of Medicine (POM) will be maintained. The key change to students’ experience is that two organ systems will be taught concurrently in Science of Medicine, rather than sequentially one organ system at a time. The sequencing and pairing of organ systems are optimized for learning.

The sequencing and paring of organ systems have been optimized in Practice of Medicine (POM) to create connections to clinical medicine as students are learning physiology and pathology of organ system. 

Reflections, Research, & Advances in Patient Care (RRAP) are one-day intersessions during the clinical years. The curriculum focuses on reflective practice, translational medicine, advances in biomedical research, and near peer mentoring. The frequency of RRAP will be increased to as often as every 4 weeks to allow enhanced emphasis on advanced basic science topics that are more applicable after some clinical experience.


3.      Preserving Components of the Former Curriculum

The Discovery Curriculum preserves many strong components of the former curriculum, including prior courses that were deemed highly successful, the Scholarly Concentration program, and the Educators for C.A.R.E. longitudinal clinical skills mentorship program. Students will continue to have the option to choose when they take the USMLE Step 1 exam (either immediately following the completion of the pre-clerkship curriculum or later in the first clinical year). There are no changes to the clerkship curriculum, with the exception of modifications to the Reflections, Research, and Advances in Patient Care (RRAP) course.