Derek Nye, a medical scientist training program student from Penn State College of Medicine, prepares a syringe to give a COVID-19 vaccine. Nye is wearing glasses and a face mask.

Health Systems Science

Developing Systems Thinking in Medicine

Health Systems Science Education at Penn State College of Medicine includes a longitudinal curriculum spanning the full undergraduate medical school experience, as well as a health systems science and systems thinking leadership development program for faculty, residents, fellows and other educators.

Penn State College of Medicine launched its systems navigation curriculum in 2014 as one of 11 medical schools awarded a grant through the American Medical Association's Accelerating Change in Medical Education initiative.

Since then, the overarching goal of health systems science education at Penn State has become helping current and future clinicians appreciate the interrelationship of biological, psychological, social and systems perspectives, and helping them to feel empowered to suggest and implement changes in the health care system.

A group of medical students are seen in a lecture room, talking together. Dr. Joshua Davis of Penn State College of Medicine is seen in the back, looking over the group.
Medical students discuss health systems science during a workshop led by Dr. Joshua Davis, rear, of Penn College of Medicine.

Courses for MD Students

As part of the undergraduate medical school experience, Penn State College of Medicine students take three core classes devoted to the science of health systems.

Through the Science of Health Systems courses (SHS711 and SHS712), students learn the foundations of health systems, health care delivery, financing, insurance, population and public health, socio-ecological medicine, quality, safety, value, and teamwork and leadership.

The Translating Healthcare Science to the Clinical Setting course (THS743) is designed to help fourth-year medical students apply concepts of patient safety, quality improvement, value and teams to the clinical setting and provide an introduction to public health.

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Patient Navigation

A key part of the longitudinal Systems Navigation Curriculum is the patient navigation program.

As patient navigators students begin learning about health care delivery in their first year of study by serving as guides, helping patients navigate through the sometimes complicated process of getting the care they need.

Through patient navigation and the three health systems courses, students begin to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes to function effectively amid the complexities of an evolving health system.

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Educator Training

The Health Systems Science Academy is designed to inspire and educate scholars in the field of health systems science including population health, health care policy and health care system improvement.

The goal is to develop teachers and role models in health systems science within each department, who will then guide the new learning and practice models that are evolving for increasingly complex population-focused health care systems.

Those eligible to apply include physicians, nurses, advanced practice clinicians, quality professionals, residents, fellows and students.

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Why Health Systems Education Matters

In this video, Dr. Jed Gonzalo, Associate Dean for Health Systems Education, talks about the value of a systems-focused medical school curriculum as part of the closing reflections of the American Medical Association's ChangeMedEd 2015 conference.

View accessible video with audio description and transcript here.

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