Emory Report
January 29, 2007
Volume 59, Number 17

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January 29 , 2007
School of Medicine

by sylvia wrobel

When the medical school class of 2011 first enters the new medical education building next fall, they will not be thinking about Emory’s strategic plan.

Instead, they are likely to be excited about anatomy classes held in sleek laboratories where they can simultaneously view MRIs and other images of the cadaver sections they are dissecting. Because Emory’s new groundbreaking medical curriculum calls for students to be engaged in clinical experiences from day one, they are likely to be appreciative of the patient simulation spaces where fully equipped examination or emergency rooms provide realistic settings for patient encounters.

A little nervous (whether they admit it or not) about beginning the road to becoming doctors, they also will appreciate the regard and concern the new building radiates for them and their faculty.

“Our students have always referred to themselves as the ‘nomads’ because they had to wander all over to find a place to study or congregate,” said Bill Eley, dean of education and student affairs. “And the teaching space was limited as well. The new building has space we’ve never had before where faculty and students can interact — and learn and teach — more routinely and informally.”

The medical school administration and faculty, on the other hand, see one of the first major implemetations of the strategic plan everywhere in the new $58 million building to be completed this spring. Thanks to the philanthropic support of grateful patients, alumni and local foundations, the high-tech building makes possible a curriculum that reflects the extraordinary advances taking place in science, meets the needs of an ever-changing health care environment, and helps prepare professionals committed to their own communities and responsive to international concerns.

The medical school also made great strides on implementing other strategic initiatives. In addition to some extraordinary faculty recruitments and retentions, it paid special attention to diversity, creating a $1 million matching fund to help recruit underrepresented minorities and women for senior academic positions, and has received gifts to establish seven new endowed chairs to recruit and retain faculty of distinction.

This year the medical school received $292 million in research funding. Ranked 19th in National Institutes of Health funding, the school’s NIH dollars rose 7 percent at a time when NIH’s own budget grew less than 3 percent.

Other future-is-here-now advances include creation of a National Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence, built with a $19 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to Emory and Georgia Tech. This “discovery accelerator” integrates nanotechnology into early detection and personalized treatment of cancer and heart disease. The NCI also awarded the Winship Cancer Institute $7.9 million to support medical school and University researchers designing new drugs to interfere with the proliferation of lung cancer cells.

This list could go on and on.

Another goal of the strategic plan is to create community and engage society. Emory medical faculty were responsible last year for more than 3.3 million patient visits, including many services unavailable elsewhere in the city, state or region. Physicians practicing in Emory Healthcare provided almost $71 million in charity care — service doctors provided with no payment — while the hundreds of physicians practicing in Emory’s affiliated hospitals provided millions more in unreimbursed care.

As one of the school’s numerous efforts in global health, the Emory Vaccine Center, the first U.S. university-based center to have an HIV/AIDS vaccine candidate in human clinical trials, partnered with an agency founded by the World Health Organization in India to develop better strategies for vaccines in Indian towns and villages hard hit by HIV.

School of Medicine curriculum

Traditional medical curricula, including the one being replaced at Emory, begin with two years of basic sciences and only in the third year let students become more than tangentially involved with patients. At the urging of its own basic science faculty, Emory’s new curriculum begins with a focus on the whole patient before proceeding down to cells and molecules. Students engage in clinical experiences from day one.

Phase 1
teaches the fundamentals of science within a clinical setting, beginning with normal human function and then proceeding to month-long blocks based on organ systems, interweaving the normal and abnormal.

Phase 2 focuses on applications of medical sciences, with students increasingly immersed in clinical experiences and strong physician mentoring.

Phase 3 students become involved in research and discovery and consolidate their training as lifelong learners. For some, it may expand to a joint M.D./Ph.D., M.D./M.P.H., M.D./M.B.A. or other degree.

Phase 4 translates medical sciences with sub-internships in key areas, electives in others, and a mandatory “capstone” course to integrate previous years, provide updates on medical advances, and re-emphasize areas such as medical, legal, economic and ethical principles.