Background: Medical schools are paying increasing attention to the need to
train students in the art of medicine. This includes early exposure to pati
ents, training in communication skills, attention to the context of the fam
ily and community, an understanding of biomedical ethics, the structure of
the health care system and preventive medicine, and commitment to both serv
ice and lifelong self-directed learning.
Description: Tulane University School of Medicine implemented an interdisci
plinary, longitudinal course, Foundations in Medicine (FIM), in 1995 to beg
in this educational process for 1st-year medical students. FIM emphasizes p
atient interaction, experiential learning, student leadership, and service
to the community. It was implemented in the absence of a department of fami
ly practice or external grant funding.
Evaluation: The course is highly successful by both student and faculty mea
sures. Students especially value the learner-centered, student-led medical
ethics discussions, community preceptor experiences, community visits, and
community service. Through these activities, students learn leadership and
organizational skills, interact with communities and individuals in a conte
xtual and nonmedical environment, and experience working in teams with peer
s. Data on student outcomes are being collected.
Conclusion: In a supportive environment, it is possible to implement an int
erdisciplinary course emphasizing clinical and community experiences and th
e human aspect of medicine, with no external and limited internal funding.