October 29, 2013

Nancy Solomon

Architect of Curriculum Reform Captures a Top National Teaching Award

Stuart Slavin, M.D., Spearheaded a Plan to Restructure Medical Education at SLU

ST. LOUIS -- Stuart Slavin, M.D., M.Ed., a pioneer in reforming medical school education and associate dean for curriculum at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, will receive one of the Association of American Medical Colleges' highest teaching awards for 2013.

Stuart Slavin, M.D.

The association represents all accredited medical schools in North America, and will present the award at its annual meeting in early November. Slavin is one of four educators who will receive the Alpha Omega Alpha Robert J. Glaser Distinguished Teaching Award for significant contributions to medical education made by gifted teachers.

A professor of pediatrics, Slavin has demonstrated a passion for medical education and curricular design throughout his 26 years in academic medicine. He most recently spearheaded a plan to restructure SLU's four-year medical school curriculum so that students have more time to explore which specialty they intend to pursue during residencies.

"Students at the end of the third year traditionally have at most two to three months to decide on the specialty they want to pursue for the rest of their career," Slavin said. "How is anyone going to decide in two months what they're going to do with the rest of their lives? It makes no sense and it wasn't enough time for many of them to decide."

In a nutshell, SLU shortened its pre-clinical curriculum allowing for earlier entry in to the third and fourth years and substantially more time for students to take electives to decide on their specialty choice. At the same time, they made a number of significant changes to the curriculum -- realigning and combining some preclinical courses, expanding the focus on clinical issues in basic science courses, and better integrating material across courses.

"It usually takes five years to get this kind of restructuring approved," Slavin said. "We got it done in six months, and the students were very involved with suggesting the changes, which were implemented this academic year. About a dozen or so medical schools have shortened the pre-clinical curriculum, as we have, and I would bet more will follow. We're ahead of the curve on this one."

Slavin noted the change is part of SLU's initiative to help students reduce the stress of medical school, innovations that have led to marked decreases in rates of depression and anxiety that research has shown many medical students experience.

In addition to his work with the curriculum, Slavin is actively involved in teaching medical students at SLU. He has revamped and expanded the existing Patient, Physician and Society course series (now called Applied Clinical Skills), which spans the first three years of medical school. He serves as the course director for each of these courses, and also directs a three-week required capstone for fourth-year students.

Before coming to SLU, Slavin served in numerous capacities at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He was co-founder of the Doctoring curriculum and spearheaded other changes in the medical school curriculum there.

Slavin has received numerous teaching awards at SLU and UCLA. His teaching receives consistently high reviews from his students, making him "one of the highest rated teachers in the medical school," says Philip Alderson, M.D., dean of SLU's medical school.

Slavin received his bachelor of science degree from Haverford College, his M.D. degree from Saint Louis University School of Medicine, and his M.Ed. degree from the University of Southern California.

Established in 1836, Saint Louis University School of Medicine has the distinction of awarding the first medical degree west of the Mississippi River. The school educates physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health care on a local, national and international level. Research at the school seeks new cures and treatments in five key areas: infectious disease, liver disease, cancer, heart/lung disease, and aging and brain disorders.

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