WHEN PAUL WALLACH, MD, arrived at Indiana University School of Medicine in 2018, he found a statewide campus that was massive in size and with a history of successes, but also areas in need of improvement. His goal was simple.
“Coming in the door, I knew we were the largest medical school in the United States. The work that we are doing—with my team—is to make us the best medical school in the United States,” said Wallach, executive associate dean for educational affairs and institutional Improvement.
Four years later, Wallach sees great progress toward that goal. His team’s efforts have touched on strengthening every stage of a student’s career while also looking outward to the needs of Indiana.
A PRIME Example
Indiana, like states across the nation, is place with glaring disparities in the availability and quality of health care that varies based on where an individual lives, their socioeconomic background, and other factors. Urban and rural areas often lack primary care physicians. At the same time, there are too few physicians from minority populations.
To begin to address these issues, IU School of Medicine is enhancing its curriculum using a pair of federal grants through a project called Primary Care Reaffirmation for Indiana Medical Education (PRIME).
The school’s goal is to produce graduates with the skills, experiences, and interest in pursuing primary care careers.
The instruction incorporates tools such as telehealth, portable ultrasound, and student-driven community projects to help reach underserved communities. Our students will also increasingly be training in these communities. As part of the effort, we’re strengthening our recruiting of students from underrepresented minority populations.
Ultimately, the goal is to create graduates who are better trained and eager to reach underserved populations, particularly in primary care roles.
One of the tools useful in reaching communities with little access to care, particularly rural areas, is portable ultrasound. In 2018, IU School of Medicine began introducing students to point-of-care ultrasound when it was still a new technology. Today, all 1,400 of our medical students receive training in the use of the devices, which are quickly becoming a key tool in a physician’s black bag. The school was an early adopter of the technology, which is now seen as essential training for competitive medical programs.
The unique challenges—and opportunities—with serving rural and urban areas are just two of the subjects that students have been able to dive into more deeply through our scholarly concentrations, a curriculum elective program that began in 2018.
Each IU School of Medicine campus around the state has carved out niches that tap into its faculty’s expertise and community resources while giving students the chance to develop their own expertise. Topics range from ethics, equity, and justice to public health, biomedical research, and many other areas—24 concentrations in all.
The school’s efforts to strengthen the student experience begins, for some students, before instruction even begins.
Experience has shown that students from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds, those who’ve taken gap years after college, and others may need some guidance on study skills, time management, and organization. To that end, the School of Medicine has created a 4-week pre-matriculation program aimed at getting incoming students primed for the rigors of medical school.
Phase I Curriculum
While any medical student will tell you the first two years of medical school can be daunting, it’s also essential in building a strong foundation for everything that follows in their education.
The School of Medicine has worked in recent years to strengthen our Phase I curriculum and the results have been impressive. Scores on Step 1 exams have risen steadily and third-year students are showing up well prepared for their clerkships.
Enhancing Fourth Year
Each year, our medical school graduates match into scores of residency programs around the country. Upon their arrival, they are expected to immediately know how to care for critically ill patients.
Recognizing this, the School of Medicine has worked to enhance the fourth year of medical school to ensure graduates are ready for residency on Day 1. An important way this is happening is with sub internships, where fourth-year students join residents to get exposure—under supervision—to the rigors and responsibilities of residency.
Philanthropy helps fuel this important work, especially when it comes to scholarships that make IU School of Medicine more affordable for students. We depend on scholarships to attract top students, diversify our student body, and reward great students. Your support of scholarships makes that possible.