Student engagement is a vital component of medical education, and medical students offer a unique perspective that adds value to curriculum design, implementation and evaluation. The UICOM-Chicago SCB is an innovative organisation that engages medical students in curriculum by providing structured opportunities across all years of training. Our survey of 563 students indicates that a majority view this student engagement as highly valuable.
Most medical schools involve students in some way; however, structural details and how these opportunities are perceived by students are lacking in the literature [7,8,9, 11]. In contrast, the organisation described here offers an innovative, formal program for training in and exposure to academic medicine, by engaging learners as key stakeholders in the medical education community. After SCB members are selected, they receive formal training from medical education faculty on how to identify causes of students’ concerns, gather and interpret data systematically, and present this feedback respectfully to faculty in a way that emphasises potential solutions that suit all stakeholders. Feedback is used in multiple ways beyond just course evaluation, including faculty development, promotion and tenure. Student-faculty reports are considered formal components of the administrative review process, often reducing time that faculty spend on completing formal reports of their own courses. Students host regular town hall meetings with the student body and hold longitudinal positions that encourage growth in skills and knowledge over time. Additionally, students utilise the network that the SCB provides to initiate research projects in medical education, allowing students to hone research skills and increase student-driven scholarship. This opportunity allows SCB members to gain exposure to academic medicine, facilitating the development of physician-educators .
Based on our analysis, we suggest the following considerations: (1) involve motivated student leaders who collaborate with peers and faculty alike and are willing to investigate curricular issues with a solutions-based approach; (2) provide students with formal training that allows for meaningful engagement in medical education; (3) systematically integrate the curricular student group into the structure of the medical school; (4) support an institution-wide cultural shift that empowers students; and (5) disseminate information regarding improvements to students and faculty in real time.
Despite potential for reproducibility at other medical schools, our study is limited in that the SCB thus far has only been implemented at UICOM-Chicago. However, the principle of organised student involvement in medical education through the methods described can easily be adapted to fit the needs and resources of other institutions. Further, although several of our students (especially those involved in the SCB) indicated increased exposure to and a desire for careers in academic medicine (Tab. 1), we did not explore long-term outcomes pertaining to involvement in the SCB. Thus, future studies will investigate the impact of this student engagement on careers in academic medicine, as well as explore perceptions of faculty and other stakeholders about this program.
In summary, by describing the novel framework of the UICOM-Chicago SCB and evaluating its impact on the student body, we highlight how medical students can add value to medical education and provide a model of best practices in student engagement in medical curriculum design, implementation and evaluation. In doing so, we provide a framework for student involvement at other institutions.