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Curriculum Reform Advice From Two MSFC Leaders

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We asked two student leaders some of our most common questions about curriculum reform. This was their advice.

Becca is an MD/PhD student at Ohio State University in the United States. Julius is a medical student at Kabale University in Uganda. Responses have been edited for clarity.

I want to do curriculum reform. Where should I start?
Julius
First review your medical school curriculum and identify what has been lacking.
Ensure you have enough support from the start by sharing your ideas with staff, chapter members, and student leadership. You can also seek guidance from other MSFC chapters who were successful with curriculum reform. Gather curriculum resources and reading materials that you can easily consult when needed.
Becca
Start by reaching out to student organizations and OB/GYN faculty already involved in similar work, who might already have ideas about how to reform the curriculum.  Reach out to whoever runs your repro block (or the equivalent) and start inquiring about the curriculum structure if you’re looking to reform the preclinical curriculum.  Basically, don’t reinvent the wheel!
How should I decide what my goals are/what to include in a new curriculum?
Julius
It is important to choose what is missing in your curricula but also what is implementable and can be easily taught within the medical school.
Becca
MSFC has a great list of things that medical students should be taught, but ultimately it’s up to you based on what you feel is missing at your institution!
What should I do if administrators won’t answer my emails/calls?
Julius
This is expected and one of the challenges almost every chapter that plans curriculum reform faces. However, it is important to remain resilient and consistently keep writing to the admin. You can also consider having a patron (staff member) who will endorse some of your letters. This way the admin may reply fast enough.
Becca
Be persistent—I tend to follow up on emails regularly until people respond.  I think often times once they realize you’re not going away, they realize they have to answer your email.  As a last resort, I’ve reached out to other admins who are friendly with the people I’m trying to get in contact with, and asked them to facilitate some contact.  In non-COVID times, I’ve also swung by offices unannounced before, but only if they have their door open anyways.
Are partnerships important? Do you have suggestions for successful partnerships?
Julius
Yes, I believe partnerships are relevant. With the right partners, you are exposed to a range of ideas. Good partnerships also help to get the attention of the admin a lot faster. If partners are involved, it amplifies the magnitude of the need for curriculum reform in the medical school.
Becca
ABSOLUTELY.  Of course, partnering with other interested student organizations is important, but you should also include community partners involved in reproductive justice.  Planned Parenthood is a great partner, but also look into organizations like SisterSong or other similar local organizations.
What if I am having trouble finding someone to teach content?
Julius
Through careful planning, you could avoid this hurdle. Choosing the most suitable, teachable or implementable goals at your medical school would help from the start. It is important to obtain as much information about your specific goals as possible. Make sure this knowledge is transferrable to others.  However, it is not unusual to have knowledge gaps in some aspects of your goals. You can consult a resourceful staff on campus or seek guidance from MSFC headquarters.
Becca
A lot of our curriculum includes open source lectures from RHEcourse and other CME sites on contraception.  Of course, having faculty lectures would be ideal, but often times they’re so busy.  We also have a lecturer who is not on the OSUCOM faculty, but works as an abortion provider nearby and was willing to teach a workshop.  Basically, get creative with it!  You can even develop the bones of a lecture you want taught and offer that to potential lecturers so all they need to do is spruce it up a little bit and then teach it.
How can I incorporate racial justice into my reproductive health curriculum?
Becca
SisterSong is a great place to start, as well as Killing the Black Body—our course incorporated readings and discussions on this.  With every curricular component you create, just take a look at it through the intersectional lens of reproductive health, gender, and race, and how it could be improved to better address reproductive justice.
What can I do if my school has restrictions on teaching about abortion (such as at a religious institution)?
Julius
Engaging the pro-life groups on-campus in discussion helps. Clearly stating the dangers of unsafe abortion with evidences from cases seen on-campus would go a long way in convincing them. Also, choose your goals appropriately so as to not conflict too much directly with religious beliefs at your institution.
Anything else you want to share?
Becca
Don’t just focus on preclinical reforms!  There is a lot that can be done for 3rd and 4th years, and that’s a very interesting training period to develop curricula for!
Thanks, Becca and Julius!

Do you need help with curriculum reform? See our resources or email [email protected].