The University of Texas System’s initiative to produce better doctors faster is underway and already is being considered a national model for transforming medical education.
The Transformation in Medical Education (TIME)  initiative, which partners six undergraduate institutions with four medical schools, kicked off two pilot programs  this past fall and will launch two more in the fall of 2013.
“The UT TIME initiative is clearly becoming a national leader in operationalizing competency-based education,” said Dr. Molly Cooke, an internationally renowned medical educator at the University of California, San Francisco. “UT is in a position to become the national and international leader in this arena.”
The mission of the TIME initiative is to offer a student-centered, clinically-focused curriculum that is one to two years shorter than the traditional eight years required to get an undergraduate and medical degree.
The shorter time table could save medical students roughly $20,000, but more importantly, their medical education will reflect the dramatic changes in patient care that have occurred in recent years, said Dr. Steven Lieberman, vice dean for academic affairs at the UT Medical Branch at Galveston.
“We’re redefining the pre-med and medical school curriculum,” said Dr. Lieberman, who serves as co-chair of the TIME Steering Committee with Dr. Pedro Reyes, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs. “Medical education should be relevant to clinical practice, and the TIME program is designed to accelerate that evolution.”
For example, as undergraduates, TIME students will focus less on traditional premedical sciences such as chemistry and physics and more on biomedical sciences that are relevant to patient care. They will also learn clinical skills that have been traditionally delayed until medical school and take courses which include ethics, culture and medicine, the art of observation and advanced communication skills. Throughout their education, students will participate in activities that help them to mature as adults and members of the profession.
Earlier this month, UT Regents unanimously approved $4 million to fund the TIME program for the next three years.
“The leaders of the program are to be particularly congratulated on their vision, leadership, attention to faculty development, and skill in change management,” said Dr. Cooke, director of the Academy of Medical Educators and director of Global Health Sciences at the UCSF. “Equally, commendations are due the Regents of the University of Texas System for their willingness to support innovation on this scale.”
In addition to the innovative curriculum, the TIME initiative has established partnerships between undergraduate and medical institutions to provide a seamless, holistic experience for students.
All of the pilots are either on or ahead of schedule. The two pilots already in progress and the partner schools include:
- PACT  (Partnership in Advancing Clinical Transition)
- UT Dallas
- UT Southwestern Medical Center
- SHAPE (UT Southwestern, Houston, Austin Professional Education)
- UT Austin
- UT Southwestern Medical Center
- UT Health Science Center – Houston
The two pilots launching in the fall of 2013 include:
- A-PRIME  (Accelerated Professional, Relevant, Integrated Medical Education)
- UT Brownsville
- UT El Paso
- UT Pan Am
- UT Medical Branch at Galveston
- UT Health Science Center - Houston
- FAME  (Facilitated Acceptance to Medical Education)
- UT San Antonio
- UT Health Science Center San Antonio
Freshman must meet rigorous standards to be accepted into the TIME program, but if they successfully meet course requirements, they will be guaranteed acceptance into medical school, Lieberman said. The students currently in the PACT and SHAPE pilot programs will begin the transition to medical school in 2015 and will begin graduating medical school in 2018.
So far, the response from students, parents and faculty has been extremely positive, Lieberman said.
“We’ve had a tremendous number of applicants for these programs,” he said. “It’s been very well-received by students and I suspect also their parents, who are attracted to the cost-savings.”
The UT System’s efforts to produce doctors  on a faster timeline is particularly critical given the statewide and nationwide shortage of doctors, Lieberman said. Texas currently ranks 47th in the nation based on the number of primary care physicians per 100,000 people.
About The University of Texas System
Educating students, providing care for patients, conducting groundbreaking research and serving the needs of Texans and the nation for more than 130 years, The University of Texas System is one of the largest public university systems in the United States, with nine academic universities, six health institutions and a fall 2012 enrollment of roughly 216,000. The UT System confers more than one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees and educates nearly three-fourths of the state’s health care professionals annually. The UT System has an annual operating budget of $13.9 billion (FY 2013) including $3.1 billion in sponsored programs funded by federal, state, local and private sources. With more than 87,000 employees, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.