Medical Science Educator

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 145–154 | Cite as

Integrating Foundational Sciences in a Clinical Context in the Post-clerkship Curriculum

  • Kimberly Brown Dahlman
  • Matthew B. Weinger
  • Kimberly D. Lomis
  • Lillian Nanney
  • Neil Osheroff
  • Donald E. MooreJr
  • Lourdes Estrada
  • William B. Cutrer
Original Research



This study aims to design, implement, and launch courses that integrate foundational science learning and clinical application in a post-clerkship undergraduate medical school curriculum.


In academic year 2015–2016 (AY15–16), as part of a comprehensive curricular revision, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (VUSM) formally implemented “Integrated Science Courses” (ISCs) that combined rigorous training in the foundational sciences with meaningful clinical experiences. These courses integrated foundational sciences that could be leveraged in the clinical environment, utilized a variety of instructional modalities, and included quantitative and qualitative (competency-based milestones) student assessments. Each ISC underwent a rigorous quality-improvement process that required input on foundational science content, student experience, and student performance assessment.


Eleven ISCs were delivered to 173 students in AY15–16, with some students taking more than one ISC. Immediately after completing each course, 93% (n = 222) of ISC enrollees completed a course evaluation. Students (91%; n = 201) “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that foundational science learning informed and enriched the clinical experiences. Furthermore, 94% (n = 209) of students thought that the clinical experiences informed and enriched the foundational science learning. Ninety-four percent of the students anticipated using the foundational science knowledge acquired in future clinical training and practice.


The teaching of foundational sciences in the clinical workplace in the post-clerkship medical curriculum is challenging and resource intensive, yet feasible. Additional experience with the model will inform the mix of courses as well as the breadth and depth of foundational science instruction that is necessary to foster scientifically based clinical reasoning skills in each student.


Curriculum 2.0 Integrated science courses Foundational science 



We thank Dr. Bonnie Miller and the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (VUSM) leadership for their support, the ISC directors, and the faculty who delivered and/or reviewed the foundational sciences in the ISCs. We also thank Dr. Charlene Dewey for constructing and executing Curriculum Design Sessions for the ISC directors. The Immersion Phase medical student liaisons Deirdre Finnegan, Nathan Friedman, and Jared Shenson provided ongoing course feedback. Special thanks to Brenna Hansen and Kacy Morgan, Immersion Phase Program Coordinators, for their administrative support.

Funding Information

Kimberly Brown Dahlman was supported in part by grants 5P30CA068485-21 and U10CA180847 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the TJ Martell Foundation. Neil Osheroff was supported in part by grant GM033944 from the NIH and Merit Review award I01Bx002198 from the United States Veterans Administration. Matthew Weinger’s time was supported in part by the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Centers of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Donald E Moore was supported in part by CMS Contract 1L1CMS331461-01-00 with Vanderbilt University and The Mid-South Practice Transformation Network. The innovation described in this study was implemented with partial financial support from the American Medical Association (AMA) as part of its Accelerating Change in Medical Education Initiative. The content of this manuscript reflects the views of VUSM and does not necessarily represent the views of AMA or other participants in this Initiative.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

40670_2017_522_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (122 kb)
Online resource 1 Characteristics of Integrated Science Courses. The table describes the core foundational sciences, clinical settings, and sample curricular elements for each of the 11 ISCs launched at VUSM in academic year 2015–2016. (PDF 121 kb)
40670_2017_522_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (163 kb)
Online resource 2 Course evaluation survey. This anonymous electronic survey was sent to students after the completion of each ISC in academic year 2015–2016. Students were required to complete the survey no later than 2 weeks after the end of each course. (PDF 162 kb)
40670_2017_522_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (108 kb)
Online resource 3 ISC Evaluation outcomes. A table containing student ratings of particular ISC elements from academic year 2015–2016 is shown. (PDF 107 kb)


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Copyright information

© International Association of Medical Science Educators 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Cancer BiologyVanderbilt University School of MedicineNashvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Anesthesiology and Biomedical InformaticsVanderbilt University Medical CenterNashvilleUSA
  3. 3.Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center, Veterans Affairs Tennessee Valley Healthcare SystemNashvilleUSA
  4. 4.Department of Medical Education and AdministrationVanderbilt University School of MedicineNashvilleUSA
  5. 5.Department of SurgeryVanderbilt University Medical CenterNashvilleUSA
  6. 6.Department of Plastic SurgeryVanderbilt University Medical CenterNashvilleUSA
  7. 7.Department of Cell and Developmental BiologyVanderbilt University School of MedicineNashvilleUSA
  8. 8.Department of BiochemistryVanderbilt University School of MedicineNashvilleUSA
  9. 9.Department of MedicineVanderbilt University Medical CenterNashvilleUSA
  10. 10.Veterans Affairs Tennessee Valley Healthcare SystemNashvilleUSA
  11. 11.Department of PediatricsVanderbilt University Medical CenterNashvilleUSA

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