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Stanford Report, June 28, 2000

Five year curriculum explored  

BY MIKE GOODKIND

The School of Medicine's Faculty Senate chose to retain the optional five-year medical school curriculum, at the last meeting of the academic year, June 14. But the senate and its Curriculum Reform Committee (CRC) agreed that the school needs to standardize the preclinical curriculum to either two or three years, because sequencing of courses is less efficient when students are on varying schedules.

Following a lengthy discussion, the senate, in a non-binding "straw poll," divided 10 to 8 in favor of keeping an optional rather than mandatory fifth year. Meanwhile, members of the CRC will continue to explore the proposed mandatory fifth year, along with other options, as part of their restructuring of the medical student curriculum, said CRC chair Donald Regula, MD, associate professor of pathology.

Irving Weissman, MD, professor of pathology, of developmental biology and of biological sciences, advocated a mandatory five-year program to help students pursue scholarly research and/or supplementary degrees in fields as diverse as law, informatics, engineering or business.

However, second-year medical student Demetrius Dicks, said a mandatory five-year program would likely deter highly qualified students from Stanford. Nevertheless, Dicks agreed with Weissman and others that the school needs to solve the scheduling difficulties inherent in offering preclinical courses to students over both two and three years.

In his presentation, Weissman said a five-year curriculum would give students time to allow their research to mature because "the experiments take time and experience" that can't be telescoped into a few months or a year.

In opposition, Dicks, a student member of the curriculum reform committee, said an informal poll of 60 Stanford medical students at a town hall meeting in early June disclosed that although the majority of Stanford medical students are on a five-year plan, "there was overwhelming sentiment ... that had the school been a mandatory five-year school, most of us would not be here."

In other action, the senate adopted a new mission statement: "To educate future physicians and foster their capacity to make discoveries and lead innovation in the science and practice of medicine." The senate also voted to add a required course in developmental biology. To accommodate the new requirement, the embryology component of Surgery 219 (Anatomy) was reduced from 2 units to 1 unit, with optional sessions to be held if necessary. SR