The curriculum at the Cumming School of Medicine follows an innovative "Clinical Presentation" curriculum. Curriculum content including basic and clinical sciences is organized around the 120 +/- 5 ways a patient can present to a physician. These clinical presentations can take the form of historical points (e.g. chest pain), physical examination signs (e.g. hypertension), or laboratory abnormalities (e.g. elevated serum lipids).
The organization by clinical presentations allows for a comprehensive approach to patient problems. Collaboration with multidisciplinary colleagues is incorporated, with emphasis on the physician as a member of the health-care team. Elective opportunities allow students to explore areas of interest in greater depth, including clinical interests, research topics, and international health.
Medical students are exposed to patient care from the time they enter the Cumming School of Medicine. This begins with exposure to “standardized patients” (actors who portray patients to facilitate early learning of clinical skills). Subsequent exposure to real patients, with faculty supervision is facilitated by the Cumming School of Medicine's associations with inpatient and outpatient settings throughout Calgary and Alberta. In these settings, students are able to participate in patient care and a team approach to health-care delivery from the beginning of medical school.
The curriculum maintains an active learning environment. In the first two academic years, more than 25 per cent of scheduled instructional activities are spent in small group, case-based learning sessions. These small group sessions allow a unique opportunity for students to create an approach to problem solving using diagnostic classification schemes, to analyze the objectives and content from lectures in an in-depth fashion, and to communicate and exchange feedback with faculty and peers. Student attendance at small group sessions is considered mandatory.
The third and final academic year is called the Clinical Clerkship. During this time, students work on hospital wards, in ambulatory care clinics and doctors' offices as well as in emergency departments in Calgary and Southern Alberta. Students rotate through a variety of specialties including Emergency Medicine, Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Surgery, Psychiatry, Paediatrics, Anaesthesia, and Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Students also have 14 weeks of elective experience in the clerkship year. A small number of students will complete a rural, longitudinal clerkship experience with some rotations in the aforementioned disciplines.
The Undergraduate Medical Education program employs electronic-based materials in lectures, small groups, and other learning events. As such a laptop computer or similar device (e.g. tablet) is strongly recommended for all students.
Participation in Rural Rotations: In the School's response to rural social accountability, the program provides teaching at several regional centres such as Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Red Deer, Yellowknife and rural sites such as Brooks, High Level and Pincher Creek, etc. Students should expect to do a minimum of 4 weeks of their clinical experience (pre-clerkship and clerkship) outside the city of Calgary except in unusual circumstances. A longitudinal placement at a rural site in the clerkship year provides a further option for a longer rural training experience for interested students.