Although change is exciting, it can leave both current and incoming students feeling uncertain about what the future holds. Many questions arise, particularly during the building phase, when not all answers are known. We created this FAQ to address some of these questions. This living document will be modified as the new curriculum becomes more clearly defined and as additional questions arise.

Curriculum renewal information will be continually updated on the Progress page. And, you can post questions or share your feedback via the Send Feedback page. In addition, the EdUpdate Newsletter provides monthly updates on curriculum renewal and other events. To sign up for the newsletter, visit the EdUpdates Newsletter subscription page.

Questions & Answers

Here are the questions we have received thus far. Click the down arrow to expand the answer.

1. Will the 2019 entering class be on the new or old curriculum? Will applicants have to make decisions “relatively blind” because there is not a detailed plan of the new curriculum?

The current curriculum will stay intact for all students entering the class of 2019. Minor modifications to improve the curriculum based on current student feedback will alter the curriculum, as has been our practice for many years. Students entering in 2019 will have the opportunity to participate in innovative pilot programs/courses/rotations including those involving basic, clinical, social, and community sciences—especially in the fourth year. Any participation in new programming will be elective, and there will be no changes to the current graduation requirements for students entering in 2019.

2. If there will not be a change in curriculum for the entering class of 2019, why is the class size changing? Will Wash U will have 200 students competing for 124 clinical positions?

The Gateway Curriculum, beginning in 2020, will result in students entering into clinical rotations earlier than in the current curriculum. Students in the entering class of 2019 will be in their core clinical clerkship rotations at that time, resulting in a period of overlap in the clinical space. However, the clinical rotations for the students entering in 2020 will be substantively different from those of the students entering in 2019, including different goals and objectives, experiences, and assessments. Because some of these rotations will occur in the same clinical spaces, there is the potential for negative impacts on both groups of students. Many of our peer institutions experienced this issue during their curriculum changes, and we have learned from their experiences. Reducing the class size for both the entering classes of 2019 and 2020 is only one part of our proactive plan to avoid overcrowding the clinical training space (and a solution no other institution has done before). Other strategies will include expanding clinical sites and rotations, interspersing basic sciences content for the class of 2020 to minimize overlap at clinical sites, and expanding and integrating elective rotations. Our goal is to ensure that all of our students have exceptional experiences and training while at WUSM.

3. Will the clerkship rotations change to Pass/Fail?

Students entering in 2019 will continue to have a pass/fail pre-clinical curriculum and an honors/high pass/pass clerkship and sub-internship curriculum. We have not made a final decision about the grading schema for the entering class of 2020.

4. Will students take Step 1 after clerkship?

Students entering in 2019 will continue to have flexibility in when they take Step 1. Most students take Step 1 after the first 2 years following their dedicated study period. We currently require completion, but not passing, of Step 1 for graduation. This will not change for the entering class of 2019.

5. Will the entering class of 2019 have a 1-year pre-clinical and a 3-year clinical curriculum?

No, the entering class of 2019 will experience the current curriculum which includes two pre-clinical years and a 3rd year clerkship phase followed by a largely elective 4th year. MSTP students must complete a minimum of three months of 4th year.

6. Will the length of the medical program increase or decrease?

No. There are no plans to increase or decrease the overall length of the medical program.

7. Will curriculum renewal result in the adoption of a single pedagogical method (e.g., problem-based learning, team-based learning, case-based collaborative learning)?

No. There are no plans to adopt any particular teaching method to the exclusion of others. Our goal is to develop a curriculum that is interactive, integrated, and that uses multiple evidence-based teaching strategies. Educational technology will be incorporated whenever it substantively augments medical student engagement and learning. We anticipate using multiple strategies to meet this goal.

8. How does WUSM plan to incorporate engagement in the St. Louis community into the new curriculum? How does this fit into WUSM’s overall mission statement?

At WUSM, we are training the next generation of physicians to reimagine health through scientific discovery and innovation. To change the face of medicine by educating and inspiring future practitioners. To improve the lives of people everywhere by making quality care accessible to all. Our mission is to train future physicians to join this critical work force. Our ideal student is motivated by a strong desire to help people. With a greater focus on physician advocacy and community engagement, our new curriculum will engage students to close gaps in care in our own community. As our students work with underserved populations in St. Louis, they’ll learn the critical skills necessary to help improve the health of communities everywhere. While the details of the community engagement curriculum are still being worked out, our dedication to it as a core focus is firm. Under the leadership of Drs. Will Ross and Laurie Punch, we will create both required and elective community engagement curricula. We already have a variety of opportunities for students to engage with the community from the Stop the Bleed Campaign to Saturday Neighborhood Clinic. It is our hope to expand these opportunities for students who enter in 2019 even before the launch of the new curriculum.

9. How will student groups and other aspects of the WUSM student community be affected in the transition to the new curriculum? Will incoming students have time to pursue summer research, primary preceptorship, and research abroad programs?

Student groups and the WUSM student community are a hallmark of our institution. Students at WUSM are leaders, innovators, and creators. For the entering class of 2019, all the opportunities that currently exist will remain intact. This includes the summer research, primary preceptorship, and research abroad programs. In 2020, we are hoping that some of the student-led and student-created activities will actually evolve into core curriculum. Opportunities in summer research, primary care, and research abroad will also all continue in the new curriculum; however, they may take alternative forms to account for the new structure.

10. I am considering a combined degree or an additional year of research. How will that affect me?

Students will continue to have access to our dual degree programs. Students will graduate under the requirements of their entering class. We will work closely with all students who want to pursue a dual degree to identify the best timing to meet their personal needs.

11. How will the new curriculum affect Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) students as they exit and re-enter the MD curriculum?

Ensuring flexibility and addressing the needs of our MSTP students has been and will continue to be a critical priority during curriculum renewal. To this end, two of our outstanding MSTP students chaired a subcommittee and now sit on the main curriculum architecture consensus committee to help us identify and address issues as they arise. Here is what we know thus far:

For those entering in 2019:

  • The current curriculum will stay intact for all students entering in 2019, including MSTP students. Minor modifications may occur to improve the curriculum based on current student feedback, as occurs every year.
  • MSTPs will enter the lab after completing both years 1 and 2 of the MD curriculum.
  • After finishing their PhD work, MSTP students will graduate under the current curriculum requirements for clinical work (see the Bulletin), rather than those in place for the new curriculum. Advanced electives, immersion science courses, longitudinal experiences, and new clinical experiences that are equivalent to the current offerings and that are being built for the new curriculum will be open to MSTP students but will not be required for graduation.
  • We will work continually with the MSTP and with re-entering MSTP students to ensure re-integration is smooth and that MSTP students have maximum flexibility upon re-entry into the clinical curriculum.
  • This change in the curriculum will not extend the training of the MSTPs.

For those entering in 2020:

  • MSTP students entering in 2020 will experience the new curriculum and will graduate under the new curriculum requirements.
  • There will continue to be time set aside for lab rotations for MSTP students in the first phase of the curriculum.
  • MSTPs will have the opportunity to enter their lab years as early as 16 months after starting medical school.
  • Depending on their interests, MSTP students may also complete elements of the clinical curriculum prior to entering the lab for their thesis work.
  • MSTP students will continue to have the flexibility of re-entering the clinical phase of the curriculum as soon as they exit their graduate school years—i.e., there will not be a single entry date for returning to the MD curriculum.
12. How will WUSM ensure the existing curriculum remains a priority while building and rolling out a new curriculum?

The faculty and administration are dedicated to ensuring that all our students have exceptional training and experiences at WUSM. We achieve this through a number of quality assurance mechanisms and through consistent interaction with our students. The Program Evaluation and Continuous Quality Improvement unit gathers and presents data on student experience and outcomes throughout the year to our curriculum oversight bodies. Each of these committees has student representatives as voting members, who provide further suggestions and input, and hold us accountable. In addition, the administration meets monthly with student government to focus on both curriculum and student life issues. At these meetings, student concerns are brought to our attention and addressed continuously. The administration holds regular town halls with all classes to provide additional forums for conversation. Finally, and importantly, each and every member of the administration and leadership truly enjoys spending time with our outstanding students. We are always around and make every effort to be available to discuss any and all concerns. We are here for you, and we are dedicated to your development as exceptional physicians and leaders who will go on the lead the advancement of human health.

13. How will we transition to the new curriculum over the next five years?

Each year of the new curriculum will be rolled out in sequential fashion, beginning in academic year 2020-2021. Please refer to the attached for a graphical representation.