Southern Illinois University School of Medicine conducts its four-year undergraduate program on two campuses. The first year of the program is on the SIU Carbondale campus to take advantage of the basic science faculty and facilities. The students spend the remaining three years in Springfield using the resources of the full time and community faculty and the two large community hospitals.
The overall focus of the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine curriculum is on clinical case-based, student-directed learning in a small group setting. The goal is to foster the integration of basic and clinical science knowledge as students solve patient, community, and population problems. Clinical experiences, such as continuity clinic assignments, a doctoring curriculum, and unit-related clinical experiences ensure that all content may be learned in a clinical context.
The first year of the curriculum engages students in case-based learning, with much student time spent in small group learning activities. Basic sciences are emphasized, while clinical activities center on building basic clinical skills and enhancing the learning of basic science concepts in a clinical context. About a third of students' scheduled time is spent in clinical activities during the first year.
An optional, but recommended, Mentored Professional Enrichment Project between the first and second year allows students to work with a mentor over the course of 12 weeks. Working with faculty on a project helps students increase their knowledge in a wide variety of areas ranging from rural practice to population and community health to academic medicine to basic science bench research.
The second year of the curriculum continues with a series of multidisciplinary rotations of case-based, small group learning units that emphasize the basic sciences in a clinical context. About half of students' scheduled time is spent in clinical activities during the second year.
The third year consists of a series of multidisciplinary clinical rotations, with emphasis on both hospital-based and ambulatory practice. These activities will take place at various locations throughout the state. Basic sciences continue to be integrated throughout the third year as students are working with patients.
The fourth year is comprised of over 200 elective courses designed to help students with final preparations for residency. Special emphases include primary care, rural care, surgical specialties, emergency medicine and research. Basic sciences again are emphasized as a part of patient care.
SIU students benefit from studying with faculty members who are both dedicated to the educational process and committed to keeping the curriculum content current and innovative. Students also benefit from an excellent, nearly 1-to-1 student-faculty ratio. This provides easier access to primary learning and the opportunity to get to know a number of faculty from diverse fields.
Emphasis on issues such as community health care and the psychosocial issues of medicine in the new curriculum continue SIU's emphasis on caring while curing and treating patients as people, rather than medical conditions.
Continuity clinic assignments allow students to follow a patient group over a period of time beginning with the first year. Community-based clinical experiences help students understand the role of the community and population in health care and provide service opportunities that benefit both the students and the community.
Life-long learning and use of technology, such as online curriculum content and resources, databases as clinical practice tools, distributed learning, and telemedicine, are also stressed.
Students are expected to use personal portable computers and online resources to enhance their knowledge and skills, log clinical activities, and evaluate curricular activities. Educational computer programs on tutor room and other student-access computers include interactive programs that show graphical interpretations of cellular, biochemical, and pharmacological interactions. Online forms are set up to accept data from both web pages and PDAs. Students also use PDAs to check medical databases, make medical calculations, review curriculum information, and access medical texts and resources.
Cases used in small group learning are set up in both paper and web format so small groups can work with them in either format. Tutor rooms are set up with computers with large screen monitors for displaying patient cases and recording learning issues, viewing videotapes and educational software, and distance learning activities such as videoconferencing with faculty and students at remote sites or conducting small group discussions at remote locations. An online self-assessment system is available from campus and remote locations for student use in practicing for licensure and other exams. A Clinical Skills Laboratory with dozens of models and simulators is available to students for training and self-study.
Most of the educational technology initiatives are student-generated, and students are involved on various committees to ensure that educational technology enhances their study process and learning.