Reinventing Medical Education in Philadelphia

In a first-of-its-kind program for a U.S. medical school, students at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University add a focus on creativity and design to their medical educations.

In the JeffDESIGN program, medical students are equipped with design thinking skills and work to redesign health care systems, services, spaces, and medical devices.

JeffDESIGN is the brainchild of medical school Dean Mark Tykocinski. Students work in the Health Design Lab, an innovation space filled with everything from 3-D printers and microelectronics to arts and crafts supplies, to help quickly turn ideas into working models.

“It is space for us to really use our imaginations in thinking about how to solve challenges in health care,” said Dr. Bon Ku, JeffDESIGN director and an emergency medicine physician.

As artificial intelligence and machine learning begin filling the space where people once had to become encyclopedias of medical knowledge, JeffDESIGN looks at other skill sets to hone. One goal is to teach students the importance of empathizing with end users as they address complex health care issues. Viewing the world from others’ perspectives helps students think differently, challenge assumptions, and create solutions that work.

In the first two years of the program, JeffDESIGN students work in multidisciplinary teams that include patients, caregivers, designers, and clinicians. They tackle challenges such as:

  • Redesigning ERs to address crowding
  • Designing custom surgical devices
  • 3-D printing of surgical planning models.

In the third and fourth clinical years, students apply design concepts as they perfect their skills in medical practice. “Creativity is actually one of the most important skill sets that a physician needs,” Ku said.