In the face of a fragmented and poorly performing health care delivery system, medical education in the United States is poised for disruption. Despite broad-based recommendations to better align physician training with societal needs, adaptive change has been slow. Traditionally, medical education has focused on the basic and clinical sciences, largely removed from the newer systems sciences such as population health, policy, financing, health care delivery, and teamwork. In this article, authors examine the current state of medical education with respect to systems sciences and propose a new framework for educating physicians in adapting to and practicing in systems-based environments. Specifically, the authors propose an educational shift from a two-pillar framework to a three-pillar framework where basic, clinical, and systems sciences are interdependent. In this new three-pillar framework, students not only learn the interconnectivity in the basic, clinical, and systems sciences but also uncover relevance and meaning in their education through authentic, value-added, and patient-centered roles as navigators within the health care system. Authors describe the Systems Navigation Curriculum, currently implemented for all students at the Penn State College of Medicine, as an example of this three-pillar educational model. Simple adjustments, such as including occasional systems topics in medical curriculum, will not foster graduates prepared to practice in the 21st-century health care system. Adequate preparation requires an explicit focus on the systems sciences as a vital and equal component of physician education.
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