An epidemic of chronic disease in an ageing population obliges us to train medical students to participate in patient and population-centred health systems as members of connected teams with the skills to work in an increasingly pluralistic cultural environment.
Like many others, the graduate-entry Sydney Medical Program struggles with teaching population medicine to students who often perceive it to be less relevant than clinical studies. Evaluation found that although students were aware of the importance of population medicine to clinical practice, they felt the existing programme lacked integration with their clinical education and did not develop professional skills.
Experience told us that clinicians apply the principles of population medicine in every consultation, understanding that individual health outcomes are moderated by the social determinants of health. We applied this knowledge to develop an integrated, community-engaged population medicine curriculum for our students in their final two clinical years. Each student will follow a patient with a chronic health condition in the community over 14 months. They will consider their patient’s experience with chronic disease and its management through a population medicine lens. Students share their learning in tutorial sessions and through online assessment tasks.
A comprehensive evaluation of patient, faculty and student experiences of the programme will allow us to assess whether we have achieved our goal of revealing to students how the application of the principles of population medicine is essential to excellence in daily clinical practice. Early data suggest that students feel positive and excited about this curriculum innovation.