The Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine is set to open in Pasadena, Calif., in fall 2019. This week, the school's board named Mark Schuster, M.D., the school’s founding dean and CEO. Most recently Schuster was the William Berenberg Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. He will begin his new position in October. Schuster recently talked with H&HN about why he chose Kaiser Permanente, the future of the new school and why hospital leaders have the ability to change medical education. Below are his remarks, edited for clarity.
What interested you about the new position?
Mark Schuster: A lot. I first heard about this in a newsletter and I thought, “Wow that is such a good idea,” for Kaiser Permanente to start a medical school. In general, there's a feeling that medical education could use a real reboot.
Another element that was attractive was the emphasis on wellness of our students. How to go through what is a challenging process — going through medical school isn’t easy — and to do it in a way that isn’t destructive to their health.
What are some hallmarks of Kaiser Permanente’s teaching style?
Schuster: We’re going to be using the case method. Built into these cases will be social information and cultural information about the patients and their families. We hope it will be what they'll think about when they are practicing physicians. When they’re in a clinical setting they will see high-functioning systems that are attentive to the needs of patients.
We will have an area for exercise. We will have a kitchen where they [students] can learn how to cook healthy for themselves and obviously then they can also teach their patients. If your physicians understand it, understand the value of it, they can be stronger partners.
We will have flipped classrooms where students watch videos in advance of the equivalent of what used to be a lecture, or a certain reading, and then come in prepared to discuss and engage rather than passively scribbling notes. We’re trying to get away from that traditional lecture-based approach to one that actively engages the students.
But we’re starting from the beginning with an incredibly strong foundation of Kaiser Permanente and 70 years of experience and tradition. We will be learning as we go and continually improving. We expect to get substantial feedback from our students, educators and staff. Our plan is to be nimble so that as there are changes in technology that may facilitate new approaches to education we will be in there.
Do you think physicians now are prepared for what they will face in the field?
Schuster: We can continue to improve the way we train medical students. What we’re discovering is there’s too much knowledge to have students learn about every disease and possible treatment. A major goal of ours is to teach students what they need to start, but also how to think about health issues and health care. And beyond that, trying to get the information they need in the future. We don’t know what the health care system will look like 10 years from now, but we’re pretty confident there will be change.
How will Kaiser Permanente’s position as an integrated care network influence students?
Schuster: Our plan is to have the students in clinical settings right from the beginning — engaging in a way that’s appropriate to their level of training. But, we think it’s important for them to be interacting with patients and their families, [to] understand challenges patients face, and understand the health care system from the patient and the family [perspective]. Also, working with non-physician clinicians, and understand that a physician is one part of that whole system, but there are many people that need to work together in order to make that system work well.
They’ll see how an integrated health care system works. We are always thinking about the total health of the patient in an integrated health care system. Integrated health care also means communication among specialists and primary care providers, nurses, physicians and therapists. It’s easier because we’re all part of the same system working together. It’ll be the environment and the context in which our students are learning.
To what extent are social factors like housing and food security going to be incorporated into the curriculum?
Schuster: Very much so. We want our physicians to understand that many factors influence a patient’s health. When you're trying to keep someone healthy you need to understand their community — if they have access to care, are they in a setting where they can get fresh fruits and vegetables? We view the social and cultural and economic factors that influence health as very important to understanding total health.
What role do hospitals and their leaders have to play in shaping the future of medical education?
Schuster: Medical education is producing the future physicians at hospitals and many of the future CEOs of those hospitals. I hope that they [hospital leaders] will take seriously the opportunity to invest in the future of the profession and engage in thinking about the best approach to medical education.
CEOs and other hospital leaders have a great perspective on what they are thrilled their physicians know and what skills they think they don’t have. I hope they will share with us and all medical schools what they would like to see us doing. We would like to hear from them and learn from them so that we can send out the best physicians we can.