A New Approach to Bridging Content Gaps in the Clinical Curriculum

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In 2004-05 Tulane University School of Medicine implemented a longitudinal Interdisciplinary Seminar Series composed of small-group interactive exercises to address topics that are often overlooked during the clinical education of medical students. The series utilizes five adult learning principles.


Each of 13 seminars is offered at a fixed time slot, repeated two to six times per year. Students are required to attend a minimum of five seminars, of their choice, during years three and four. Students access an online pre-enrollment system that maximizes learning opportunities by limiting the number of participants. Seminars emphasize active learning with small-group problem-solving exercises and multiple interactive techniques. Clinical vignettes, standardized patients, journal articles, and case-based learning are among the learning methods.


Seminar evaluations showed strong support in program content and effectiveness (mean = 4.47 on a five-point scale), facilitators (4.63), and learning opportunities (4.51). Additionally, students strongly endorsed individual seminars to classmates (4.47). Twelve of 13 (92%) seminars received scores higher than 4.0 for program content and effectiveness, facilitators and learning opportunities.


The Interdisciplinary Seminar Series has been a valuable addition to the Tulane clinical curriculum. Students report that the success of the series is due to: (a) their ability to select seminars based on their individualized interests and needs; and (b) faculty development of student-centered seminars with active learning opportunities. This Seminar Series differs from interclerkship initiatives at other medical schools where topics are offered less frequently and to a class as a whole. Tulane's program is a longitudinal intervention with multiple opportunities for student participation during their clinical education. Seminars are repeated to allow greater flexibility in student scheduling. Seminar discussions are rich in content since attendees include both third- and fourth-year students with variable levels of clinical skills and experiences.