Office of Institutional Advancement

Dean's Column: Medicine Plus

Mark L. Tykocinski, MD

In training the doctors of tomorrow, Sidney Kimmel Medical College educates students across three dimensions: curriculum, co-curriculum and extra-curriculum.

Dr. Deborah Ziring affirms this point in her Q&A, noting that the JeffMD curriculum we are rolling out is “building on the success of our College-within-the-College [co-curricular] program.” We are enriching the conventional curriculum with a constellation of Medicine+ elements, co-curricular programs that are more than simply add-ons. They are integral to preparing a new generation of physicians who can differentiate themselves amongst society’s spectrum of caregivers. That’s the plus of Medicine+, and it will make our graduates stand out above the rest. Added dimensions—new ways of thinking, cross-cutting knowledge domains—will power our graduates to thrive in and lead tomorrow’s healthcare.

A core value proposition of the JeffMD curriculum is scholarly inquiry. The way physicians practice will change radically over the next decades, in ways that are unpredictable. Research projects help medical students develop the contextual, critical and creative thinking skills—my “3 C’s”—essential to clinical practice and transformation in a rapidly-changing healthcare environment.

Under JeffMD, all students will be required to do at least one scholarly inquiry project. Some will fulfill the requirement by doing research in a faculty lab or exploring medical education itself, while many others will link their project to their choice from a menu of structured opportunities—beginning with our established College-within-the-College (CwiC) programs and extending to a continuously expanding set of co-curricular offerings under our Medicine+ umbrella.

Soon after I arrived at Jefferson almost nine years ago, I teamed up with Dr. Susan Rattner, the vice dean for academic affairs, to launch CwiC, which then encompassed two tracks: CwiC Population Health and CwiC Translational Research. We’ve since added a third option, CwiC Design, with a fourth, CwiC Humanities, soon to be launched. In short order, these

CwiC tracks have become fixtures of our medical college, typically with upwards of 70 students per class electing to participate in this four-year co-curricular journey.

One of my earliest recruits to Jefferson was Dr. Peter Lloyd Jones, an associate dean who founded MEDstudio, another co-curricular program. MEDstudio advocates for a system that promotes good health, well-being and dignity for all. Boldly billed as “post-disciplinary,” this first-of-its-kind program fosters creative dialogue among diverse fields via workshops, community engagement, lectures and broad collaborations. Some of its projects have already garnered international attention (see p.4). Additionally, MEDstudio helped establish Jefferson as the sole medical institution within the MIT-led, DOD-financed Advanced Functional Fabrics of America initiative. Continuously evolving, MEDstudio is now positioned for co-curricular contributions within a Medicine + Creativity space.

Under the leadership of Dr. Sal Mangione, Medicine + Humanities has given SKMC a wealth of humanities offerings unrivalled within the nation’s medical school landscape. These include programs in drama (Lantern Theatre Company Workshops), film (The Jefferson Medical Cineforum), visual arts (Visual Thinking Strategy program at PAFA), drawing (Medical Sketching at Fleisher Art Memorial), dance (Dance for Health), poetry (Jefferson Poetry Club), a minicourse on the Holocaust, and journaling and reflective writing. And there will be more—planning is underway for Medicine+ programming in computation and data sciences, policy, entrepreneurship, ethics and even music.

Through Medicine+, we see our graduates as highly adaptable and empathetic leaders who will devise innovative care pathways and reimagine health policies or healthcare business models. They’ll be the resourceful MDs who invent life-altering medical devices, or design better processes and procedures. Our alumni will be the ones thinking through, contextualizing and deploying big data and artificial intelligence to enhance diagnostic and therapeutic decision-making. They’ll be the frontline physicians who learned how to listen deeply, partner and communicate effectively, and be comfortable with ambiguity.

The mergers and partnerships Jefferson has been forging figure into Medicine+. As MEDstudio and CwiC Design unfolded, so did the idea of partnering with Philadelphia University, a storied local institution with top-10 programs in design, textiles and architecture. This partnership was the original catalyst for our pending merger. However, there was more. Taking a longitudinal view of Medicine+ tracks, we asked why wait for students to appear at SKMC’s doorstep before immersing them in a design culture. This thought prompted a partnership with Princeton University—IDeA, Innovation & Design Application—wherein we assure SKMC admission to some Princeton sophomores who commit to exposure to disciplines related to design, broadly defined. This initiative, orchestrated by Dr. Bon Ku, recruits a different kind of medical student to train a different kind of doctor. Reducing the pre-med workload, waiving MCATs and providing early acceptance, frees IDeA applicants to fully engage in their fields as undergraduates and then bring the distinctive outlooks they develop into medicine.

There’s also extra-curriculum. Our students have access to some 30 extracurricular programs, many of them community outreach and student run. Most are familiar with our signature community outreach clinics serving the homeless—JeffHope—but this is just the tip of the iceberg. JeffHealth works in East Africa, especially Rwanda, to improve health, one village at a time. The cover story in this issue highlights our many community initiatives to help kids thrive. I believe you’d be hard pressed to find another medical school that has our level of bona fide student engagement with surrounding communities. This is experiential, hands-on learning at its best.

The legacy I seek to craft at Sidney Kimmel Medical College is the elevation of co-curriculum, alongside extracurriculum, and its hardwiring into the curricular architecture through scholarly inquiry. During our accreditation review two years ago, the Licensing Commission on Medical Education lauded Jefferson’s CwiC programs as “an institutional strength.” It was a gratifying validation of our concept. For me, an even stronger endorsement came on a Philadelphia sidewalk one day. Walking back to campus after commencement ceremonies at the Kimmel Center, I overheard one of our students telling his family about this “great program at Jefferson … it’s called College-within-the-College … it’s been around forever.” Instantly I knew co-curriculum was indeed entrenching itself in Jefferson’s academic culture.

Mark L. Tykocinski, MD
Provost, Thomas Jefferson University
Anthony F. and Gertrude M. DePalma Dean,
Sidney Kimmel Medical College