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Medical Education
Bridges Curriculum


Q. Is the Bridges Curriculum three or four years long? What is the structure? How are students assessed?

A. The Bridges Curriculum is a 4-year curriculum  that has three phases spanning 45 months. The three phases are Foundations 1 (60 weeks), Foundations 2 (48 weeks) and Career Launch (53 weeks). Foundations 1 is comprised of the Clinical Microsystem Clerkship (CMC), Inquiry and Foundational Science elements. All three elements are integrated into interdisciplinary courses that are linked to the UCSF academic calendar. Students will be assessed on these elements and these scores will roll up into a Pass/Non-Pass grade for the entire course.

Q. Will medical students be taking any classes with students from other UCSF programs (i.e. dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, physical therapy) as part of the Bridges Curriculum?

A. A curriculum goal is that students will have more interprofessional learning experiences in the Bridges Curriculum. We expect to see integration of interprofessional activities in the Inquiry and CMC components of the curriculum in the future.

Q. I have heard that the School of Pharmacy is also developing a Bridges Curriculum. How does it relate to the School of Medicine Bridges Curriculum?

A. The School of Pharmacy has embraced the same principles as the School of Medicine Bridges Curriculum including a plan to develop a similar Inquiry component. Their curriculum will launch in 2018 as a separate but complementary one to ours which will open the door for more integrated opportunities in the future. See School of Pharmacy Bridges Curriculum to learn more.

Q. What’s going to be different about the Bridges Curriculum?

  • A longitudinal clerkship, the Clinical Microsystem Clerkship, where students participate as contributing members of the patient care and community health teams from the start of medical school, learning to continuously improve care delivery to better serve patients.
  • Weekly faculty-facilitated small groups during the Core Inquiry Component that will enable students to build competency in the habits of mind in inquiry across each of the six domains of science. Student groups will explore current, complex and cutting-edge scientific or health care problems through the lens of two or more scientific disciplines (e.g., the appropriate response to electronic cigarettes, or new approaches to antimicrobial resistance).
  • Inquiry Immersion of two-week blocks of selective didactics, cohort meetings, and scholarship skill-building experiences to allow students to work together and choose from a menu of courses that focus on methods relevant to the areas of inquiry and topics of interest.
  • Dedicated time to engage in scholarly projects, through the Inquiry Deep Explore component, in one of the core domains of science instrumental to solving today's health care challenges.
  • A closely-mentored, individualized advising system to support a student’s entry into the profession of medicine and path to success as a UCSF 21st century physician.
  • ARCH (Assessment, Reflection, Coaching, Health) Weeks are week-long periods that will occur during Foundations 1 and will include activities related to six key themes: assessment, remediation, coaching, professional identity formation, well-being and career exploration.
  • A flexible core science-learning environment with active classroom sessions enabled by online learning tools as well as foundational science learning embedded in the traditional core clerkships.
  • Opportunities to individualize the learners’ educational path to support their personal career goals.

Q. How will student wellness and support issues be handled for students during Bridges? 

A. The Student Experience Task Force (composed of students and faculty) developed guiding principles for student support services in Bridges to:

  • Provide multiple touch points for students to receive support for USMLE preparation, and career decision making.
  • Provide comprehensive services to support learning, well-being, peer-support, career advising, and extracurricular opportunities.
  • Utilize data continuously to help students manage their own learning, development and decision making, including the support for using the data successfully. 

Wellness cultivation and student support will be woven into the fabric of the Bridges Curriculum through the coaching system that will use the assessment dashboard to help students manage their learning. ARCH week programming on reflection and personal health. Students will also benefit from availability of the following Student Experience Team (SET) members:

  • Faculty Advisors (known as Advisory College Mentors in the current curriculum).  Each CMC site’s coaching groups will be assigned to one of the four SET Faculty Advisors. The coaches may refer students to the Faculty Advisors for specialty advising or students may access them directly. The Faculty Advisors provide specialized advising in individualized career exploration, research and leadership opportunities, academic strategies, preparation for licensure exams, and wellness.
  • Academic Advisors. Sara Clemons and Cha Viloria are available to all students in the Medical Student Center Monday through Friday 8:30 to 5pm. The SET Academic Advisors provide academic advising focused on academic support, early career exploration, entering and exiting the curriculum, extracurricular organizational activities, and clerkship selection and placement. Career Advisors within clinical departments provide advising focused on supporting each student’s residency match.
  • Medical Student Wellbeing. Medical Education’s own student psychologist and psychiatrist will continue to provide direct services to students in the Bridges Curriculum and collaborate with faculty on cultivating wellness through curricular and extracurricular programming.
  • Career Advising. While SET’s Academic Advisors and Faculty Advisors complement the early career planning students do with their Coaches, department-specific Career Advisors are available to advise students on choices and opportunities specific to their disciplines.

Q. How will the effectiveness of the Bridges Curriculum be measured?

A. A comprehensive program evaluation plan was developed by our evaluation team under the leadership of Arianne Teherani, PhD. It includes online evaluations, focus groups and topic reviews.

Q. How will curricular content change? How will it stay the same?

A. The knowledge created by today’s clinical and basic sciences will endure to the extent that the evidence supports it. As always, knowledge evolves as discovery unfolds. Foundational sciences themselves -- the methodologies for producing knowledge -- also evolve to address the most pressing questions we face.  Given the challenges our health systems are facing, the content of our curriculum will broaden to include more focus on systems improvement, implementation sciences, data management, interprofessional teamwork, and the skills and knowledge that support these activities.

Q. I hear that USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 will be taken after the 3rd year, is that true?

A. Yes, these exams have been moved to a point in the curriculum after students have completed their core clerkships.

The three key advantages of this move are:

  1. It provides the greatest flexibility for integrating the classroom-focused foundational science, the inquiry curriculum; and immersive clinical workplace learning without artificial separation by the Step 1 exam;
  2. It maximizes the benefit of the proposed advanced foundational science thread in the core clerkship phase of the curriculum as educator and student alike will be motivated to ensure continued preparation of students for the Step 1 exam.
  3. The situated foundational learning that students do as they care for patients has a good chance of improving their performance on Step 1, which is increasingly more clinically based.

Q. Who/which is the first class to take Step 1 and Step 2 after their 3rd year?

A. Class entering in 2016.

Q. How are they sure that students will perform just as well on Step 1 and Step 2?

A. A Foundational Science Steering Committee (FSSC) task force determined that moving the exam to third year was ideal for achieving the goals of the Bridges curriculum, while not impacting the success of students passing the exam. The task force made its determination supported by evidence from a report commissioned from the UCSF-University Medical Center Utrecht Collaborative Doctoral Program in Health Professions Education. The highest curriculum governance committee in the school, the Committee on Curriculum and Educational Policy (CCEP), approved the recommendation along with the blueprint of the new Bridges Curriculum. Learn more and read the report on the Bridges website.