South Florida Hospital News
Thursday October 1, 2020

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November 2019 - Volume 16 - Issue 5


Medical School Focuses on Patients, Teamwork and Problem-Solving

In just its second year of existence, over 7,000 prospective medical students applied to fill 50 available slots next fall at the Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Allopathic Medicine at Nova Southeastern University (NSU MD).

Johannes W. Vieweg, M.D., FACS, the medical school’s founding dean, credits this demand to its hybrid, problem-based learning curriculum.
“This shows that the thirst for innovation and different type of learning is intriguing to many prospective students even though we are still a new school,” he says.
NSU MD wants to limit its capacity to 50 students per year to keep class sizes small. It is the only university in the southeastern United States and the first in Florida to house both an osteopathic medical school and an allopathic medical school on the same campus.
Building a medical school from the ground up was a challenge that Dr. Vieweg relished.
“Having this incredible opportunity and task to build a medical school and shaping it to support new developments in health education and research was exciting to me,” he says. “A new school has more flexibility and, what I call—‘unencumberedness’—meaning that we don’t have a legacy system. As a result, we’re more flexible to try new and innovative things and allow our students to learn more about the health system of the future instead of learning about the same things other students are learning.”
The medical school curriculum was designed by a team of 100 medical educators, physicians and researchers with decades of field experience.
At the Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Allopathic Medicine, you will not find passive, lecture-style teaching, notes Dr. Vieweg. Rather, the curriculum is designed to prepare students to interact with patients and health care team members more effectively.
According to the school’s website, the innovative curriculum integrates didactics on ethics and humanities, genomics, inter-professional collaboration, biomedical informatics, and leadership, with heavy emphasis on research, technology and innovation.
Students train to become active learners, work in smaller groups, (seven to eight students per cohort), and learn to solve medical problems through active inquiry, with a faculty facilitator. Students will also learn alongside others who are training as pharmacists, nurses, speech-language pathologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists and other health care specialists.
“Classes such as anatomy or physiology are taught around a specific clinical case,” explains Dr. Vieweg. “Data have shown that this type of problem-based learning is an effective tool to engage your students. We introduce a case to the students and then they have to quiz themselves and each other and figure out what’s happening.”
By using clinical cases and this team-based approach, Dr. Vieweg says that students can solve complex problems by honing their diagnosis and communication skills. The program leverages both simulated patients and real-world examples in progressively more difficult encounters. There is also an emphasis on cultural competence. Ultimately, the goal is for students to master critical thinking; build their diagnosis and detective skills; and interact with patients as the center of every case.
“It’s a different, active learning curriculum that is challenging, but at the same time, allows students to learn better and retain information better than other teaching methods,” says Dr. Vieweg. “When you cram things in your mind, you forget it as quickly as you acquire it.”
Unlike other medical schools across the country, Dr. Vieweg says they are not focused solely on MCAT scores or a student’s GPA as predictors of student success. Since the curriculum is also designed to develop physician leaders, they look at prospective students who are independent self-starters.
The admissions committee uses a Multi-Mini Interview (MMI) process to evaluate non-cognitive qualities and skills. Applicants move through short, structured interview stations where interviewers will be exploring their responses to prompts regarding the following:
• Ethical decision making
• Critical thinking
• Communication skills
• Current healthcare and societal issues
• Abilities to succeed in a patient-centered hybrid, case- and problem-based learning curriculum
“Through this process, we look at their personality as well as potential for leadership and maturity,” says Dr. Vieweg. “We want to see more self-starters who can master this curriculum.”

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