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Medical students at Brown University now have to know more than just medicine -- they also have to be more patient-friendly doctors. Brown's School of Medicine has developed a new curriculum -- the "MD 2000 Program" -- that will require graduating medical students to pass nine "competency-based" skill tests, according to Stephen Smith, an associate dean. The students must prove they have learned basic clinical knowledge, using fundamental scientific concepts in the practice of medicine and diagnostic abilities. But some of the new requirements -- like effective communication, moral reasoning, ethical judgment and problem solving -- are more unusual. "In creating the new curriculum, we asked, 'What would you look for in your own personal doctor'?" said Smith, the chief architect of MD 2000. Smith said the requirements -- especially effective communication -- will force students to understand the impact they have on their patients. "You need to teach the students how to communicate better with their patients," Smith said. Brown's medical students must also demonstrate proficiency in life-long learning, self-awareness and personal growth, and knowledge of the social contexts of medicine. In crafting the new curriculum, Smith studied each medical course to determine what competency skills could be incorporated. In the introductory anatomy course, for example, students must now give a presentation about a cadaver they have dissected -- a requirement that tests how well students communicate. Smith said both students and faculty have welcomed the new curriculum. But he added that some students have expressed some "nervousness" about the new requirements. And Brown Medical School Professor Philip Gruppuso said some of his students are worried the new requirements will take away from the basic science skills they need to pass medical certification tests. He added that while the theory behind the new curriculum is good, its implementation has been difficult. "I've never liked the idea of just pouring information into an empty void," Gruppuso said. "But this is a relatively small medical school with a relatively small faculty, and instituting a curriculum like this requires a greater commitment of resources." Gruppuso, who teaches a large introductory course, said he has already implemented several of the requirements into his course.

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