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Medical Education
Bridges Curriculum

Inquiry: Developing a Habit of Mind

Innovation and change in the health sciences are accelerating at an unprecedented pace.  Just 60 years ago, the structure of DNA had only just been proposed; the polio vaccine was newly invented; and the HIV/AIDS was yet to be identified.

How can we train physicians of the 21st century to address and manage health problems that have not yet emerged?  How do we prepare our graduates to use tools, technologies and treatments that have not yet been invented? 

This is the challenge posed by the Inquiry element of the UCSF Bridges Curriculum.


Inquiry will motivate students to recognize the boundary of what is “known” in medicine and teach them how to advance health care further in each of the six UCSF Domains of Science.

Challenging Current Concepts
Students will begin developing their understanding of complex scientific and health care problems during the first year of medical school through a series of Inquiry cases. Facilitated small group sessions will guide students in developing knowledge and skills in each of the domains of science and applying these to important health care and scientific challenges. In addition, an annual two-week Inquiry Immersion block will offer fundamental didactics, selective mini-courses, and active team-based learning opportunities. Through these components, students will gain knowledge and foster a commitment to leadership and innovation in the domain of their choice.

Creating New Knowledge
The Deep Explore component of Inquiry will link every student with a faculty expert in the process of discovery.  Working in teams or on individually selected projects, UCSF students will have dedicated time in the fourth year schedule to pursue their passion.  While some students may choose research in basic or clinical science, other forms of scholarship such as a community health initiative or population studies in an under-resourced community will also be encouraged.  A required capstone presentation, written legacy product, and supported dissemination of project results will ensure that all UCSF students have the opportunity to contribute to the generation of new knowledge in the health sciences.

Inquiry as a Lifelong Pursuit
Research, scholarship, and discovery are core to the UCSF mission of “advancing health worldwide.” Inquiry engages students in early, intensive, yet supported exploration and unites students and faculty in the lifelong pursuit of challenging current concepts and creating new knowledge.  To do this, we are looking across campuses to identify leaders at the frontiers of the six UCSF Domains of Science.

See how campus leaders Daniel Lowenstein, MD and H. Carrie Chen, MD, MSEd frame their experiences within the Domains of Science. Inquiring Minds Series