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Harvard-Imperial visit

September saw key members of the senior faculty team from Imperial College including our Director, Dr Sonia Kumar and Deputy Head of Undergraduate Medicine, Dr Jo Harris visit Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts for a fact finding mission.

Harvard’s new medical curriculum “Pathways” has the integration of clinically relevant science and early patient exposure at its core, and this is woven into the fabric of all their teaching sessions. This ethos is plain to see in their small group teaching as well as their new “Practice of Medicine” course. Faculty members were able to participate in some of these highly engaging student roleplays and take part in a tutorial on the topic of empathy in medical students.

Healthcare is obviously managed in a different way in the United States however Cambridge is possibly more similar to the UK model since this hosts one of the few publicly funded hospitals in the country. Primary Care also has a different meaning and comprises not just General Practice but also “primary care” physicians, paediatricians and even gynaecologists.

Although taking time to become fully established in the US, this Primary Care programme in many ways encompasses vision of the “expert generalist” that has been mentioned in UK healthcare.
Faculty members also had the privilege of meeting Associate Professor David Hirsh, who is giving the keynote speech at our SAPC Madingley Hall conference in January. The team learned all about the innovative “Cambridge Integrated Clerkships” (CICs) which David Hirsh co- founded.  This longitudinal attachment was the inspiration behind our own “Integrated Clinical Apprenticeship” pilot in Year 5 which launched this year. The students on the CIC in Harvard follow a cohort of patients over a year, through any investigations they need, so when their patient is having an X-ray they learn about radiology and if their patients have a biopsy they “follow the specimen” to Pathology. The fundamental recurring principle is the learning occurs through the patient with the students having a meaningful role in their patient’s lives.

The Imperial College team also visited the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the simulation center in Massachusetts General Hospital, and a public community health clinic distinguished by its work in the provision of free healthcare for marginalised communities.

The visit was a valuable learning experience for teams from both sides of the Atlantic, and it’s hoped that some of the ideas learned from Harvard and MIT could inspire developments in our own medical curriculum.

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