Sometimes it’s instructive to hear “lessons learned” stories from someone who has gone through a bruising academic battle.

Yesterday, Dr. George Mejicano (pictured above) – the senior associate dean for education at Oregon Health Sciences University – came to WSU Spokane, ready to share stories about his experiences guiding OHSU through a “curriculum transformation.”

While the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine isn’t going through the same sort of transition, it is making important decisions about what and how students will be taught. That’s one reason why Founding Dean John Tomkowiak and Mary Ann Clemens, his special advisor for curriculum development, invited Mejicano to Spokane.

Mejicano says OHSU began its curriculum update several years ago because the health care providers who hired the university’s graduates often weren’t happy.

“Many surgical residency programs, for example, told us ‘you’re not producing people we can use on day one’,” Mejicano told administrators at a luncheon meeting.

He said OHSU curriculum teams adopted several goals. They sought to change the curriculum to make it more relevant for students. They wanted students engaged in more active, less passive learning. They wanted to encourage critical thinking, not just rote learning.

“We were tired of the ‘binge and purge’ behavior from students,” Mejicano said, referring to the habit of cramming for tests, taking the tests and then almost immediately forgetting what they had just studied.

So what did Mejicano and his OHSU colleagues learn? Here are a few of their takeaways:

  • Engage your stakeholders – scientists, clinicians, educators, students – early and allow them plenty of opportunities to provide feedback.
  • Buckle up – there will be turbulence.
  • When people complain, show them the evidence that supports why you made changes.
  • Don’t worry about getting everything perfect.
  • Just do it. Your patients don’t get better while you sit and deliberate.

Mejicano congratulated the WSU College of Medicine on its work preparing for its preliminary accreditation – the step needed before the new school can admit students. He said WSU, as a new school, has an opportunity to be bold and take risks because it doesn’t have to overcome the inertia from an entrenched culture.