First Class of Med Students Complete JeffMD Curriculum

‘This has been our pièce de résistance,’ says provost Dr. Mark L. Tykocinski.
Scenes from the 2017 White Coat Ceremony
At the 2017 White Coat Ceremony, Dr. Steven Herrine congratulates Alexander Knops. He now will pursue otolaryngology at Jefferson for his residency.

Graduating Sidney Kimmel Medical College students belong to a special class. They will be the first group to complete the much-celebrated JeffMD Curriculum in its entirety.

Launched in 2017, JeffMD prepares future doctors to learn actively and think critically as they develop core professional competencies to make positive, impactful changes in health care.

Student Alexandra Leto
For the past two years, Alexandra Leto served as chair for JeffMD's student liaison program.

At the Match Day ceremony in March, Dr. Mark L. Tykocinski praised the Class of 2021 for being “pioneers in a radically new curriculum.”

“This has been our pièce de résistance,” says Dr. Tykocinski, Jefferson’s provost and executive vice president for academic affairs and the Anthony F. and Gertrude M. DePalma Dean of Sidney Kimmel Medical College. “Not only have you made it through the curriculum, but you really have shined and validated that curriculum. The success of this match provides the validation. You’re an exceptionally talented group. You’ve proven your mettle, and each and every one of you has a bright future.”

Class of 2021 student George Titomihelakis

Class of 2021 grad George Titomihelakis will go to the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai for vascular surgery.

Dr. Steven Herrine wholeheartedly agrees with this assessment. Jefferson’s vice dean for academic affairs/undergraduate medical education served as one of JeffMD’s key architects, along with Dr. Peter Scoles, vice dean for academic program development, and Dr. Deborah Ziring, senior associate dean of undergraduate medical education and academic affairs.

To develop and implement the new curriculum, the team—with Dr. Tykocinski’s support—analyzed current best practices in adult learning and spoke with leaders at other medical schools nationwide.

Shail Patel at the 2017 White Coat
From the 2017 White Coat Ceremony, Shail Patel begins his Jefferson medical school journey. Four years later, he's heading to Nassau University Medical Center.

“It was a big undertaking,” says Dr. Herrine, of revamping the curriculum for one of the largest medical schools in the country.

The leadership team focused on seven guiding principles:

  • Patient-centered
  • Early clinical exposure
  • Integrated science, clinical knowledge and skill, and professional development
  • Competency-based advancement
  • Continuing component of scholarly inquiry on topics chosen by students with guidance from their mentors
  • Learning optimized by a range of instructional formats
  • Opportunity for early development of specialty interest

You’re an exceptionally talented group. You’ve proven your mettle, and each and every one of you has a bright future.
–Dr. Mark L. Tykocinski

Dr. Herrine acknowledges they added some “quite ambitious” pieces to the curriculum, especially scholarly inquiry. This component intends to provide students with the skills and experience needed to become critical consumers and producers of medical knowledge.

“It exceeded beyond our hopes,” he says. “The students absolutely embraced the work and seriousness of its purpose.”

As for some other favorite parts of JeffMD, Dr. Herrine points to case-based learning and the health system science thread, which zero in socioecologic determinants of health and population and public health.

Students start their clinical experience in their first year, going into practices and screening patients for difficulties in obtaining care, transportation and medication.

“We know lack of health equity affects outcomes,” he says. “We’ve woven that into the curriculum. It’s not an afterthought, not an addition. It’s important as anatomy, physiology and biochemistry and learning the clinical disciplines. That’s unique, and I think appropriate.”

Dr. Herrine says another reason for JeffMD’s success is the student liaison program. Here, every course, clerkship and thread has a student representative who frequently meets with administration and faculty to share input.

“We can pivot sharply if we need to, and tweak continuously,” he says. “It can be anything from this particular presentation ran long to the issue of systemic racism not being discussed enough in our curriculum. Students don’t need to go far to provide us with that feedback. We want it. We solicit it. We respond to it. We pride ourselves on being responsive to students’ feedback. It’s a serious partnership.”

Mercy Toma receives her white coat in 2017. Toma will continue her career at Nemours duPont Pediatrics at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

Alexandra Leto has helped run the student liaison program since 2018, serving as chair in her third and fourth year. Through this position, she built strong relationships with faculty members who became her mentors at Jefferson, she says.

“It’s incredible to see how much work the faculty puts into creating a curriculum that the students can respond to and interact with in the best way possible,” Leto says. In one example, they changed the order of case-based learning blocks based on student comments.

She will soon start her residency at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania for internal medicine. Leto says the curriculum, in particular the research opportunities and small-group focus, played a big role in her success at Jefferson.

“It’s an honor to be part of the first class of JeffMD,” she says.

Students don’t need to go far to provide us with feedback. We want it. We solicit it. We respond to it.
–Dr. Steven Herrine

Dr. Herrine thanked all the new grads for their collegiality, understanding and talents in working with him and his team in fine-tuning the curriculum over the past four years.

“We’re focused on making sure the students can get the best of what we can possibly offer,” he says. “To see something come off the paper and become palpable and successful gives you a sense of pride. They’re going to go out there and do wonderful things.”

The Sidney Kimmel Medical College Commencement will be May 25 at 10 a.m. Visit here for more info.

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