Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine


Phases of the Curriculum

Curriculum Renewal

M1 and M2 years (Phases 1a and 1b, approximately 20 months)

Phase 1 includes the first 20 months of instruction. Fourteen modules of varying lengths are organized by organ systems, with normal and abnormal functions covered in each. The modules contain all Four Elements of the new curriculum, with Science in Medicine predominating. All content follows our Learning Paradigm, which allows students to develop a consistent knowledge structure and enables faculty to anchor and integrate content across all phases.

Foundations Module

The first module of Phase 1a is called Foundations: a 14-week introduction to the foundational aspects of each element group. In the Health and Society curriculum, students will learn about personal behavior and how the community and the larger policy arena affects one’s ability to live healthy.  Students will be introduced through lectures and small groups to the concepts of health care quality and patient safety; health care delivery and the business of medicine; health equity and advocacy; and team work and leadership. Students will have a mentored opportunity to explore a neighborhood of Chicago to help them better understand how a patient’s social and physical environment impacts one’s health.  In Health and Society, the concept of community extends beyond the geography of Chicago.  Students will also be introduced to global health concepts to help prepare them for future global health experiences. 

Synthesis and Application Modules

At periodic intervals throughout the new curriculum, there will be Synthesis and Application Modules (SAMs) to review key concepts, relate them to new ones, and assess learning. A dedicated block of time is devoted to work on the Area of Scholarly Concentration (AoSC); developmental activities related to the AoSC occur throughout the first phase.

Science in Medicine content will be delivered via instructional sessions and active, integrative learning strategies (problem-based learning [PBL], team-based learning [TBL], and learning plenaries). Contact hours will be kept to approximately 25 hours/week and maximize faculty interaction.

Focused Clinical Experiences

The Clinical Medicine element is represented in Phase 1 through two innovative new formats explored through pilot projects in academic year 2011-2012. Focused Clinical Experiences (FCEs) are brief, single visits to selected clinical settings, which tie in to specific Science in Medicine topics, and are guided by well-defined learning objectives. During the cardiovascular block, for example, a student might spend a few hours in the echocardiography laboratory, observe and learn from the technicians and patients undergoing imaging studies, and take part in the cardiologist’s review. The purpose is to provide as many points of clinical context as possible in the basic medical sciences. FCEs will foster earlier clinical skills acquisition, provide students with a more advanced starting point for clinical work in the Phase 2 clerkships, and enable a more thoughtful and robust exploration of career choices. 

Education-Centered Medical Home

The Education-Centered Medical Home (ECMH) takes the common practice of longitudinal clinical preceptorship and adds several new dimensions – continuity and responsibility in student-patient relationships, continuity of a multi-level team of students working with the preceptor(s), and the ability to track and evaluate patient outcomes over time. The model anticipates and prepares students for the “patient-centered medical homes” and similar accountable care environments in which we believe they will be asked to practice.

The opportunity to create continuity with patients, peers, and preceptors across all four years makes it possible to teach and assess clinical skills in new ways. Instead of measuring training effectiveness by students’ test scores alone, Feinberg can measure educational effectiveness by assessing the health outcomes of patients in our ECMHs.

M3 year (Phase 2, approximately 1 year)

The second phase will include intense clinical experiences through a complete set of core clerkships that will be department-based and span multiple disciplines. In the new curriculum, these rotations will begin earlier in the learner’s course of study. In addition, there will be elective time which will allow students to pursue studies in another interest area (e.g., anesthesiology, radiology, ophthalmology, dermatology).

M4 year (Phase 3, approximately 1 year)

The final phase will focus on advanced clinical rotations as well as professional development in a niche focus in medicine, or AoSC, that the students research and select in the first year. Learners will immerse themselves in these specific themes in research, education, or community service and continue to develop a mentoring relationship with a faculty member in this chosen area of interest.