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The Western Reserve2 Curriculum (4-Year MD Training Physician-Scholars)

The Western Reserve2 (WR2) Curriculum is a much needed reform in medical education. The four-year curriculum unites the disciplines of medicine and public health into a single, integrated program that trains students to study the interplay between the biology of disease and the social and behavioral context of illness, between the care of the individual patient and the health of the public, and between clinical medicine and population medicine, to emerge as leaders in science, practice and health care policy.

Curriculum Schematic

Four Themes

The Western Reserve2 Curriculum interweaves four themes - research and scholarship, clinical mastery, leadership, and civic professionalism - to prepare students for the ongoing practice of evidence-based medicine in the rapidly changing health care environment of the 21st century. Students are immersed in a graduate-school atmosphere characterized by flexibility, independent study and collegial interaction with faculty.

The Western Reserve2 Curriculum seeks to train physician-scholars who are prepared to not only treat disease and disease states, but to also promote health prevention and maintenance and to examine the social and behavioral context of illness. Scholarship and clinical relevance inform learning processes, and clinical experiences and biomedical and population science are integrated across the four years of the curriculum.  The WR2 Curriculum also creates an independent, educational environment where learning is self-directed and where student education primarily occurs through:

1) faculty facilitated, small-group student-centered discussions (IQ Teams)

2) large group interactive sessions including didactic sessions that offer a framework (lectures)

3) interactive anatomy and histology sessions

4) clinical skills training,

5) early and frequent patient-based activities

This curriculum is nearly paperless and the learning process is supplemented by a rich array of electronic and Web-based resources called the eCurriculum.

The Guiding Principles of WR2

  1. The core concepts of health and disease prevention will be fully integrated into the curriculum.
  2. Medical education will be experiential and emphasize the skills for scholarship, critical thinking, and lifelong learning.
  3. Educational methods will be chosen that stimulate an active interchange of ideas among students and faculty.
  4. Students and faculty will be mutually respectful partners in learning.
  5. Students will be immersed in a graduate school educational environment characterized by flexibility and high expectations for independent study and self-directed learning.
  6. Learning will be fostered by weaving the scientific foundations of medicine and health with clinical experiences throughout the curriculum. These scientific foundations include basic science, clinical science, population-based science, and social and behavioral sciences.
  7. Every student will have an in-depth mentored experience in research and scholarship.
  8. Recognizing the obligations of physicians to society, the central themes of public health, civic professionalism and leadership will be longitudinally woven throughout the entire curriculum.
  9. The systems issues of patient safety, quality medical care, and health care delivery will be emphasized and integrated throughout the curriculum.
  10. Students will acquire a core set of competencies in the knowledge, mastery of clinical skills and attitudes that are pre-requisite to graduate medical education.  These competencies will be defined, learned and assessed and serve as a mechanism of assessment of the school's success. 

Foundations of Medicine and Health

Becoming a Doctor

The principles of health and population medicine are firmly embedded within the Western Reserve2 Curriculum from the moment students begin their education at the School of Medicine.

In typical programs, students begin their medical education by studying basic science at the molecular level, not fully aware of the relevance that this knowledge will have in their future education or how it relates to the actual practice of medicine. The Western Reserve2 Curriculum begins differently, however, with a block called "Becoming a Doctor". This introductory block focuses on health and disease within the broader context of society, and provides both a perspective and a framework for subsequent learning of biomedical and population sciences. Additional foundations courses in the first year shift the focus to basic science training closely linked to clinical experiences and interactions with individual patients. The second year of the Western Reserve2 Curriculum includes the continuation of foundations courses.


One of the most unique characteristics of the WR2 Curriculum is the Inquiry Team-based learning.

Case Inquiry (IQ) Teams = a small, student-centered learning team that uses elaborate patient cases and discussion to learn, retain, synthesize and integrate knowledge. In an IQ Team, students prepare for and do most of the talking.  Each team includes 8-9 students and a faculty member who facilitates discussion, ensures that the learning objectives are addressed and  that each member of the group contributes to the learning effort.  

IQ Teams meet every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Students receive two cases on Monday and work on them throughout the week, both in the classroom and on their own. The cases have been crafted and tested by internal and external educational experts. At the start of the week, students review these cases with no prior knowledge of what is to be covered, much as a physician would when seeing a new patient. A brief, one or two sentence description, the goal, guides the review of the cases. Each case is read one paragraph at a time, after which the Team asks pertinent questions. At the end of each session, each IQ Team develops its own learning objectives that its members collectively believe will help them to generate a clinical framework and to guide their learning over the course of the week. On Friday, the official learning objectives are provided so that the students may ascertain how well they were able to elucidate the important basic science details in a clinically relevant context.

Some of the purposes of the small groups are to:

  1. Promote the core concepts of health and disease prevention into a fully integrated curriculum.
  2. Make medical education experiential and to hone the skills for scholarship, critical thinking, and lifelong learning.
  3. Encourage educational methods that stimulate an active interchange of ideas among students and faculty.
  4. Immerse the student in a graduate school educational environment characterized by flexibility and high expectations for independent study and self-directed learning.
  5. Foster learning by interweaving the scientific foundations of medicine and health with clinical experiences and knowledge, population-science, and social and behavioral science.


    **Click here to learn more about IQ Teams**

Clinical Rotations

Year III

Flexibility characterizes the third year, which include the MD thesis research block and clinical rotation blocks that incorporate basic science experiences within "IQ+" sessions. Our clinical rotations take place within some of the best hospitals in the country and the students can be immersed within these hospitals for up to 16 weeks. The fourth year includes advanced clinical studies, acting internships and in-depth seminars in medicine and health, and opportunities to pursue additional clinical interests in preparation for residency.

Students complete in-depth, mentored research experiences based on their individual interests, with the goal of understanding the scientific process and cultivating the process of lifelong learning. The ability to question, critically analyze, and to formulate hypotheses are essential skills in both clinical and research-oriented practices. We are one of a few schools that has allotted 16 weeks simply dedicated to the MD thesis research project. All students can receive research mentoring and advising from members of one of four academic societies and the Office of Medical Student Research.