Guiding Principles & Policies

Curricular Values, Principles and Policies That Guide UME Curriculum Development, Reform, and Evaluation

The integrated undergraduate medical education curriculum at the UNM School of Medicine is designed to prepare students with the essential knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to provide effective, compassionate healthcare for the diverse population of New Mexico within a rapidly evolving healthcare environment. In developing and revising our curriculum, we are guided in our decisions by what we value related to the competencies of an excellent physician, our responsibilities as educators, and the best evidence from educational research, as reflected in the principles and policies described below.


PRINCIPLE 1. The University of New Mexico School of Medicine Curriculum Committee, as a standing committee of the faculty, has broad oversight of the four-year medical curriculum.

The Curriculum Committee serves as an LCME-mandated committee. The Committee guides and evaluates the curriculum and all of its components on a regular basis to ensure continuous improvement through the incorporation of the most up-to-date educational strategies for fostering student success. In addition, the Committee serves as a forum to review courses and approve new course proposals, to study special issues and problems, and to report to the faculty on curricular issues.

Policy 1A. The function of the SOM Curriculum Committee will include the following:

  1. Establish the general educational policies and procedures for the School of Medicine curriculum based on educational theory, research, and innovations.
  2. Define the educational goals and objectives of the School of Medicine curriculum.
  3. Initiate and review proposals for new courses and clerkships, as well as proposals modifying current curricular offerings, based on sound educational principles.
  4. Identify and standardize practices across curricular elements based on best available evidence.
  5. Monitor, evaluate, and continuously improve the quality of our educational program utilizing data grounded in sound educational principles and derived from multiple sources, including student outcome assessments and student and faculty evaluations of courses, clerkships, and instructors.
  6. Evaluate the effectiveness of the curriculum and recommend changes in accordance with the accreditation requirements of the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) and the mission and vision of the School of Medicine.

PRINCIPLE 2. Each component of the curriculum is based on defined goals and objectives that relate directly to and are designed to address the School of Medicine Competencies and Learning Objectives.

Policy 2A. Units of the curriculum have clearly defined and integrated goals and objectives, require students to assume increasing responsibility for safe and effective patient care, and are consistent with the competencies and learning objectives as adopted by the School of Medicine Curriculum Committee.

Policy 2B. The overall educational objectives for the School of Medicine address the following competencies: 1) Medical Knowledge, 2) Patient Care, 3) Interpersonal and Communication Skills, 4) Personal and Professional Development, 5) Systems - Based Practice, 6) Practice Based Learning and Improvement and 7) New Mexico Health.

Policy 2C. Student assessment is balanced among measures of factual knowledge, higher levels of thinking, performance-related skill development, and professional behavior, linked directly to the stated objectives for courses and clerkships. Students are assessed both formatively and summatively using methods that emphasize deep versus superficial learning with measures that are valid and reliable.

Policy 2D. Students in small group settings must receive individualized verbal or written feedback if the small groups are facilitated by the same faculty member over a significant period of time. Clinical preceptors are required to include narrative comments when completing the clinical evaluation of a student.

PRINCIPLE 3. The Basic and Clinical Sciences are integrated throughout the curriculum.

Policy 3A. Units of the curriculum are designed to integrate student learning of the medical sciences where normal structure and function are taught together with the pathophysiology of various disease states.

Policy 3B. Where appropriate, the curricular components are directed, designed, and delivered by teams that include both Basic and Clinical Science faculty.

Policy 3C. Units of the curriculum integrate medical knowledge and clinical competencies to advance clinical reasoning skills.

PRINCIPLE 4. The educational environment is appropriate to the mission of the medical school and students are educated in the biopsychosocial model of health and disease.

Policy 4A. Students spend significant time engaged in practical clinical experiences beginning in the first year of the curriculum.

Policy 4B. Students are provided with experiences serving rural and underserved populations utilizing community-based education, service learning, and interprofessional education.

Policy 4C. Students learn medicine within the context of different cultural and social situations and practice culturally appropriate communications as a means of valuing and leveraging diversity for optimal outcomes.

Policy 4D. Students gain experience in a diverse array of health care settings, including ambulatory, inpatient, critical care, emergent, community-based, and the transitions between them.

Policy 4E. Students have learning experiences that foster an understanding of the importance of long- term continuity of care.

PRINCIPLE 5. Longitudinal themes that emphasize the social determinants of health and disease are incorporated throughout the curriculum.

Policy 5A. The following themes are integrated throughout the curriculum:

  • Ethical and professional practice
  • Communication skills for health professionals
  • Community, population, and public health
  • Quality improvement, patient safety, and outcome measures
  • Skills for working in interprofessional teams
  • Substance use disorders
  • Food insecurity
  • Societal and domestic violence
  • Childhood adversity
  • Social injustice (racism, gender inequality, ageism, sexual discrimination)
  • Geriatrics
  • Palliative care
  • Application of the scientific method and other scholarship

PRINCIPLE 6. The curriculum is designed to be learning and learner-centered and to create significant and relevant learning experiences that are based on educational principles supported by the best available research evidence about how people learn. Emphasis is also placed on student self-directed learning with sufficient time provided for independent study and synthesis of information through personal reflection.

Policies Related to Phase 1:

Policy 6A. The curriculum demonstrates learning-centeredness by creating a motivating environment, building on learners' pre-existing knowledge, addressing common misconceptions, facilitating learning with understanding, and developing learner metacognition.

Policy 6B. The curriculum is designed and implemented in a way that clearly links learning objectives, content, methods, and assessment.

Policy 6C. The basic science curriculum is implemented using educational methodologies that place an emphasis on student self-directed learning. The curriculum will emphasize pre-class preparation and use more active, problem-oriented strategies in class with frequent formative and summative assessments.

Policy 6D. In the basic science curriculum, a significant number of the total contact hours are devoted to active learning. Active learning is defined as content that requires the active participation of students. Examples include laboratories, peer instruction, case-based learning, team-based learning, clinical reasoning, small group instruction, and any other format in which the students must actively participate in the class to practice the application of learned knowledge to think critically and solve relevant medical problems.

Policy 6E. No more than twenty-six (26) contact hours are scheduled per week. Included in this are all concurrent courses (Phase 1 blocks, Doctoring, Quantitative Medicine, Clinical Reasoning and Learning Communities curriculum). Time for the delivery of content through the use of independent learning modules (ILM) such as video lectures, narrated power-point presentations, interactive modules and assigned reading and other assignments should be either provided within the 26 contact hours or limited to 4 hours of outside time. More than 4 hours will result in an hour-for-hour reduction in the scheduled contact time.

Policy 6F. No more than ten (10) hours of lecture are scheduled per week. In keeping with best practices and supported by the educational research literature and student feedback, it is strongly encouraged that no more than two (2) consecutive hours of lecture are scheduled in a single day.

Policy 6G. A predictable weekly schedule is available that includes at least 3 unscheduled half days per week.

Policy 6H. The content of the Phase I curriculum includes detail appropriate for the students' stage of education. The content correlates with USMLE objectives and is represented in sufficient breadth and depth to enable passage of the Step 1 exam with scores that are comparable with the national average. The curriculum includes early clinical experiences and content about professionalism, ethics, diversity and other subjects important to and appropriate for the students' stage of education, their preparation for the Phase II curriculum, and their ultimate success as physicians.

Policy 6I. Content is presented in a coherent flow within the Phase I curriculum. The organization of the curriculum demonstrates how the material relates within the course and links to previous and subsequent courses. New knowledge is built upon prior knowledge acquired in the curriculum and sufficiently integrated so as to make connections relevant.

Policy 6J. As a norm, basic biomedical science will demonstrate a clear clinical application made visible to students, so they understand “why” they are learning it. In some cases, relevance to health and wellness may also be important in addition to, or instead of, relevance to disease.

Policy 6K. The content of the curriculum builds on and reinforces earlier content. Foundational material is introduced before more complex material.

Policy 6L. The Phase I curriculum includes opportunities for students to become life-long learners by integrating information management skills into their learning using state-of-the-art information technology. This includes researching, organizing, evaluating, and applying information to solve clinical cases and determine treatment effectiveness.

Policy 6M. Proposed changes in curricular design, delivery and assessment must be approved by the Curriculum Committee, incorporate best practices supported by educational research findings, and take into consideration the impact of such changes on other components of the curriculum.

Policy 6N. All blocks in Phase I will follow the following assessment practices:

  • All blocks will offer weekly low-stakes quizzes as part of the summative assessment in the block.
  • All blocks in Phase I will offer opportunities for formative assessment.
  • A comprehensive final exam will be given at the end of every block that has a sufficient number of questions to accurately assess curricular objectives.
  • Blueprinting should be done for all exams to help determine the optimal number and breadth of questions.
  • The final comprehensive exam should be composed of NBME questions whenever possible.
  • Retake exams should be different from, but comparable in blueprinting and in difficulty to, the original exam.
  • Timed exams should conform with the NMBE standard.
  • Students in small group settings should receive individualized verbal or written feedback if the small groups are facilitated by the same faculty member over a significant period of time.

This policy does not strictly apply to the Doctoring and Clinical Reasoning blocks which have substantially different assessment practices from the other Phase I blocks.

Policies Related to Phase II and Phase III:

Policy 6O. Active learning strategies are employed during the didactic sessions of the clerkships with no more than ten (10) hours of traditional lecture scheduled per week averaged over the course of the clerkship.

Policy 6P. See the Duty Hours Policy. This policy is intended to address student duty hours while on clinical rotations (including on-call, days off, days, nights) at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine hospitals and clinical facilities. It follows the same principles, processes and requirements as outlined by the ACGME. Judicious attention to duty hours is a requirement of both the LCME and ACGME in order to evaluate learning opportunities, clinical experience and exposure and the student's need for personal time.

Policy 6Q. Supervision of medical student learning experiences is provided throughout the Phase II and Phase III required clinical experiences in accordance with the policy on Supervision of Medical Students in Clinical Learning Situations.

Policy 6R. The Phase II and III curricula include opportunities for students to incorporate information management skills into their learning (finding, organizing, evaluating and applying information) using state-of-the-art information technology.

Policy 6S. Students are expected to receive written narrative feedback as part of their clinical evaluation on each clerkship.

PRINCIPLE 7. The curriculum and all of its components are evaluated on a regular basis by the Curriculum Committee to ensure continuous quality improvement and achievement of the School of Medicine goals and objectives.

Policy 7A. In evaluating the quality of the curriculum, the Curriculum Committee considers evaluations and outcomes of board performance, courses, clerkships, and teachers as part of the evaluation process.

Policy 7B. There are multi-source, periodic, systematic reviews of the design, content, and instruction in each course to ensure that learning objectives are appropriate and clearly stated, course content is relevant, methods are matched to level of learning, appropriate reinforcement is included, and unnecessary redundancy is eliminated.

Policy 7C. Faculty are provided with the necessary resources and tools to become effective teachers, including faculty development programs, coaching and feedback, and structured faculty evaluations.

Approved by the School of Medicine Curriculum Committee 5/2017.