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Clinical Foundations of Medicine

CFM imageScheduled to follow Health Care Disparities in the Genes to Society first year curriculum is Clinical Foundations of Medicine (CFM).  And thanks to Dr. Rob Shochet, who sat down for an interview with us, we were able to gain a better understanding of why this course is second in line.  Dr. Shochet is the course director and director of the School of Medicine’s Colleges Advisory Program.

Clinical Foundations of Medicine, as its name states, provides a foundation for future clinical care for first year med students.  It emphasizes the importance of communication: doctor/patient communication, colleague communication, and professional communication.  Students gain instrumental experience in how to connect to and gain the trust of a patient across the patient’s life cycle. Concurrently, the students are also in the Human Anatomy course, which offers real-world opportunities to practice what is being taught in CFM.

What’s important about Clinical Foundations of Medicine?  It teaches crucial patient-centered skills such as listening attentively, responding to patient emotion, engaging the patient as a partner in their healthcare, how to ask questions to be maximally productive and how to invite the patient to be a story-teller of his/her history.  As part of the course curriculum, students have the opportunity to observe real life situations when they visit the Cancer Center at Hopkins and observe how their teacher interacts with patients.  It’s through the use of these communications skills, highlighted throughout CFM, that these future doctors learn how to gather a patient’s story, build rapport and appreciate the patient’s perspective.

Within the Genes to Society curriculum, specifically in CFM, students are divided up into learning groups, known as “molecules,” consisting of five students with one preceptor (teacher).  Because of these molecules, students are ensured ample 1:1 time with their preceptor and learn to build trust within their groups.  It is a learner-centered teaching approach and part of a larger, national movement: learning communities.

And what are learning communities?  Learning communities teach the importance of forming relationships and trust within the medical community.  To thrive in the healthcare environment, medical knowledge is not everything.  Students need to learn how to adapt to the complex social environment in which healthcare is provided.  Social learning is a key factor in the journey of becoming a doctor.

Not only do the “molecules” of CFM exemplify these learning communities, the School of Medicine’s Colleges Advisory Program, also known as the four colleges, does as well.  The four colleges (similar to the British tradition as portrayed in the Harry Potter series’ “Hogwarts School”) provide an important social aspect to what can be a very challenging four years of medical school.  Each of the four colleges have a combination of first, second, third and fourth year students, thus encouraging students across all years to build advisory and mentoring relationships with each other.  The Colleges Program honors humanism through commitment to caring attitudes, skillful clinical practice, role modeling and supporting each student in their professional formation as a physician.  Faculty advisors devote years of service to the Colleges Program, maintaining connections with students from the first day of school until graduation, and consequently are intimately involved with the arc of the student’s professional development.

Clinical Foundations of Medicine demonstrates the major change we are seeing in medical school education not only at Hopkins, but across the nation.  Recognizing that not everyone has the intrinsic ability to communicate well, Hopkins ensures that its students remember and take with them these life-long relationship skills, which is slowly changing the culture of the medical community.