NEWS | December 27, 2018

School of Medicine chosen to pilot virtual patient case curriculum

UC Davis is one of six schools nationwide selected to create virtual case scenarios for medical students and residents


After a highly competitive process, the UC Davis School of Medicine has been selected as one of just six institutions to participate in an innovative pilot project to improve medical school curricula.

Depending on the outcome of the project, the coursework could eventually be included in computer-based curricula at medical schools across the country.

“I think this says that we’re really at the forefront of medical education,” said Colleen Sweeney, professor and vice chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine

Education Building
A leading provider of virtual case-based courses has tapped UC Davis School of Medicine to help develop curriculum.

The project came about after a leading provider of computer-based medical school curriculum, Aquifer Sciences, announced it was seeking medical schools interested in developing scenarios for virtual patient cases that students take to bolster their clinical rotations.

The UC Davis team applied to participate over the summer and in October was selected to create new teaching and learning tools that integrate the basic and clinical sciences foundation upon which third-and fourth-year students and residents make patient-care decisions.

Participating schools are expected to assign experienced educators in the basic sciences and clinical care to lead the case scenarios. UC Davis found a win-win with Sweeney, a veteran medical science educator, and Jennifer L. Plant, a pediatric intensivist with a long history of working with Aquifer.

A nonprofit organization previously known as MedU, Aquifer is well respected for developing virtual online clinical courses that are evidence based and peer reviewed. The organization’s curriculum is used by many medical schools, including UC Davis.

When the professors announced the project to a Doctoring class, they quickly drew interest from five, fourth-year students: Aska B. Sturdevan, Aditi Mohan Trivedi, Karly Ann Williams, Angelique Mahavongtrakul and Veesta Falahati.

The professors and students met regularly to work on a “calibration case” assigned to participating medical schools. Next, the UC Davis group will develop specific, unique, virtual patient cases based on assigned topics.

The development of the virtual curriculum comes at a good time for medical schools across the country, many of which are trying to find better ways to bridge what students learn in basic sciences with what they practice in a clinical setting, the professors said.

The virtual cases, Plant said, are unique, “because they start with a clinical scenario but the related teaching is going back to the nitty gritty, to look at the reasons we make the clinical decisions.”

The group’s work will be completed by March 1, with beta testing set to begin in July.