Harvard Medical School recently announced the launch of a new innovative curriculum designed to incorporate pedagogical approaches that foster active learning and critical thinking.

The new curriculum will also include earlier clinical experience and advanced clinical and student-tailored basic/population science experiences designed to provide customized pathways for each student. It will begin with what they call “foundational building blocks to study medicine” which includes the fundamentals of anatomy, histology, biochemistry, and molecular and cellular biology; genetics; immunology; and introductory pharmacologic principles. The intro period would also include two new courses: Foundations and Immunity in Defense and Disease.

According to Harvard Medical, in order to succeed in clinical clerkships concepts in core basic/population science should be taught before a student’s core clinical year. “after the intellectual transformation that occurs during the core clinical year, students will be more receptive to courses in advanced scientific and clinical topics; required and/or selective courses in pathophysiology and pharmacology; selective courses in basic/translational science, social/population science, and medical humanities; individual, faculty-mentored scholarly projects; clinical electives and sub internships; and Steps 1 and 2 of the national boards.”

In addition, to create an opportunity for earlier clinical exposure, the new curriculum introduces Principal Clinical Experience (PCE) into the second year. “The new preclerkship clinical skills course Practice of Medicine will be integrated with the longitudinal Primary Care Clerkship during the PCE, yielding the potential for two years of continuity in a single ambulatorymedicine practice.”

The schools says that one of the best features of the new curriculum is the chance for students to customize their medical education path through their third and fourth years to get ready for whichever aspect of medicine has attracted their curiosity and passion. “While rigorous demands and high expectations will be set for students in Years III and IV, the expanded time following the PCE allows for considerable flexibility as students pursue advanced integrated science courses, clinical electives, and scholarly research projects, and take advantage of myriad opportunities across Harvard University and around the world.”