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University of Miami awarded Howard Hughes Medical Institute experiment grant

CORAL GABLES, FL (February 28, 2011) The University of Miami's College of Arts and Sciences and Miller School of Medicine were recently awarded a Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant to design and assess an innovative competency-based premedical curriculum in response to the 2009 American Association of Medical CollegesHoward Hughes Medical Institute "Scientific Foundations for Future Physicians (SFFP)" report. The grant will be in collaboration with Purdue University, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and University of Maryland at College Park.

UM College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) and Miller School of Medicine faculty will partner to create case studies that use clinical cases to teach basic science concepts covered by the eight competencies in the SFFP report which integrate biological concepts with underlying principles of chemistry and physics, as well as with their medical practices and biomedical research.

In small groups, students will work through patient scenarios using a question based guide created by faculty to help better understand the basic sciences behind diagnoses and treatment decisions and to foster critical thinking. The new curriculum will provide future physicians with knowledge and skills that will enable them to apply what they learn as undergraduates.

"What makes this grant exciting and at the same time challenging is the intramural collaboration between the Miller School and the College of Arts and Sciences and the extramural collaboration among four research intensive universities to transform the pre-medical curriculum," said Michael Gaines, CAS professor of biology and principal investigator. "It's a real meeting of the minds of faculty from different disciplines and institutions committed to undergraduate curricula innovation."

"We look forward to collaborating with faculty from the College of Arts and Sciences in crafting new case-based modules that will allow students to learn core undergraduate science concepts in a clinical context," explained Alex J. Mechaber, M.D., senior associate dean for undergraduate medical education, associate professor of medicine, and co-principal investigator on the grant at the Miller School. "This approach will allow students to go beyond the traditional learning of scientific facts and focus more on the application and integration of basic science knowledge."

Leonidas Bachas, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said, "The grant is an excellent example of a new approach to education -- one that teaches integrative learning and systemic problem solving. Investing in these initiatives will transform the conventional structure of learning and I look forward for the opportunities that this collaboration will generate for our students."

The three other institutions joining UM will develop competency-based curricula that focus on different aspects of the SFFP report. Purdue is focusing on the integration of biology into chemistry; University of Maryland, Baltimore County is introducing mathematical modeling into biology courses; and University of Maryland, College Park is redesigning the physics curriculum to integrate it with biology.

The case studies created by UM will be used as assessment instruments to measure learning gains based on the competencies across all institutions. The ultimate goal is for the four institutions to adopt and adapt each other's newly developed curricula so there is convergence across the board.


Contact: Elizabeth Amore
University of Miami

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