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100 Faculty Participate in Debut of New Keck School Medical Curriculum

Allan V. Abbott

Photo by Jon Nalick

First-year students at the Keck School of Medicine of USC are being taught under a new curriculum meant to improve their understanding of the basic sciences and enhance the sciences’ relevance to clinical medicine. The curriculum also aims to improve students’ problem-solving and independent study skills.

The new curriculum is the product of more than 100 Keck School faculty members who spent countless hours debating how best to teach the key tenets of their disciplines and how to organize coursework. For the incoming class, the new curriculum will prevail throughout their four years of medical school, said Allan V. Abbott, associate dean for curriculum.

However, students at the Keck School who have already completed their first year will continue to be taught under the traditional curriculum throughout the course of their medical school training, Abbott said.

The new curriculum focuses on how students learn key information and gain skills to ask the right questions, come up with ways to solve problems and figure out how to get answers. They will spend less time in lectures and more time working in small groups with other students and professors. No more than four hours will be spent each day in traditional classroom study.

That does not mean that faculty will log fewer hours with students, Abbott stressed. Faculty will increase involvement in small groups and faculty-mentored student groups will meet weekly to develop professionalism and coordinate small-group and directed self-study.

New first-year students began Aug. 20 with a section called Core Principles, which teaches the tenets and clinical relevance of the basic sciences, followed by hematology and immunology, neuroscience, and musculoskeletal systems. The second year consists of the remainder of the systems, such as cardiovascular, renal and respiratory. They will take Introduction to Clinical Medicine through out the first two years, participate in a student literature search project the first year and a student research project the second year.

After each component, students will take pass/fail examinations. A comprehensive exam at year’s end will include assessment of clinical skills as well as written testing.

The research projects – in either a clinical or community setting – also prepare students for academic careers in medicine, allow them to work closely with faculty members and publish journal articles.

Starting on the first day of class, students face a variety of real-life and simulated cases that coincide with topics being taught at the time. These cases are part of a unique “practice profile” of cases that systematically expose students to the most common and important medical problems seen in all major specialties.

The Keck School is not alone in revising its curriculum, said Abbott. “Numerous medical schools across the country are currently updating their teaching,” Abbott said. “However, the new curriculum at the Keck School will pioneer several new approaches to teaching and learning medicine that will place the school at the leading edge of medical student education in the United States.”

For more information on the new curriculum, mission statement and similar details, visit

100 Faculty Participate in Debut of New Keck School Medical Curriculum

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