URMC receives perfect score from Accreditation Board

Double Helix Curriculum Praised in Spotless Review of Medical School

February 09, 2001

The University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry received the highest accreditation status of any medical school in the country from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME). The LCME, which accredits U.S. and Canadian medical schools, spans both the American Medical Association and the Associate of American Medical Colleges.

The LCME Survey Team, comprised of leaders from medical schools throughout the country, presented the university with a "clean bill of health" and a full, seven-year accreditation. Typically, LCME accreditation reports identify six to eight global "strengths" and six to eight "areas of concern" for a medical school's curriculum, students, faculty, facilities, policies, finances, and related areas.

The survey team spent five days at the university in October. During an exit conference with Medical School Dean Edward M. Hundert, Medical Center CEO Jay H. Stein, and university President Thomas H. Jackson, members reported many identified strengths and that there were "no areas of concern -- an unprecedented finding in American medical education."

The team's written report, which rates URMC as "lauded," was formally approved by the LCME board in Washington, D.C. Wednesday and it becomes the official accreditation status of the university of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry for the next seven years, the maximum period of accreditation.

"This is a tremendous endorsement of our medical school and a wonderful validation of the superior quality level of our curriculum, our faculty, and the caliber of students that we graduate," says Edward Hundert, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry.

The team praised the university's educational reforms as "innovative, bold, and highly successful." Two years ago, the URMC instituted the Double Helix curriculum. Named after the intertwining strands that comprise DNA, the program integrates basic science and clinical medicine throughout all four years of medical school, with students learning to care for patients as they learn the biological and social sciences which are fundamental to understanding diseases and their treatment and prevention.

LCME members also praised the senior administrators for their leadership in the development of and transition to the new program.

"Dean Hundert has demonstrated extraordinary leadership and has developed broad based, enthusiastic support for the school's educational reform that is reflected in the Double Helix curriculum," the team wrote in its summary report. "The senior leadership of the medical center and school reflect highly effective synergy and have committed substantial financial and infrastructure resources to advance the medical education and research missions." Other areas particularly praised were the school's innovative student advising and mentoring program and the level of professionalism exhibited throughout the school.

Hundert has led the sweeping reform of the medical school's curriculum. This innovative approach emphasizes lifelong learning, which is critical in this age of rapid technology and medical advancements.

Unique to the Double Helix curriculum is the inclusion of a comprehensive "Professional Competency Assessment" that goes far beyond evaluating clinical skills, and the Ambulatory Clerkship Experience, which places medical students in community physicians' offices while they are learning the basic science related to the patients they are seeing.

Other features include "evidence-based medicine" modules, designed to teach medical students how to search for information and then integrate clinical expertise and research results, and a strong emphasis on community health improvement, to ensure the community as a whole is a focus for interventions made by healthcare providers.

The Double Helix curriculum has been praised by many and is considered a model for the future of medical training. It is helping shape curricula at medical schools throughout the country and even internationally. The university has received more than $3 million in grants to support its development.

To date, the first two years of the medical school curriculum have been converted to the Double Helix curriculum. Implementation will continue over the next two years to include the third and fourth years of the curriculum. Plans are also in the works to apply the Double Helix principles to the medical school's graduate medical education programs. Just as the new curriculum integrates basic science and clinical medicine in the training of medical students, hopes are to better integrate the two in the training of residents.

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