In August 2009, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine implemented a new curriculum, "Genes to Society" (GTS), aimed at reframing the context of health and illness more broadly, to encourage students to explore the biologic properties of a patient's health within a larger, integrated system including social, cultural, psychological, and environmental variables. This approach presents the patient's phenotype as the sum of internal (genes, molecules, cells, and organs) and external (environment, family, and society) factors within a defined system. Unique genotypic and societal factors bring individuality and variability to the student's attention. GTS rejects the phenotypic dichotomy of health and illness, preferring to view patients along a phenotypic continuum from "asymptomatic and latent" to "critically ill." GTS grew out of a perceived need to reformulate the student experience to meet the oncoming revolution in medicine that recognizes individuality from the genome to the environment. This article describes the five-year planning process that included the definition of objectives, development of the new curriculum, commission of a new education building, addition of enhancements in student life and faculty development, and creation of a vertical and horizontal structure, all of which culminated in the GTS curriculum. Critical ingredients in meeting the challenges of implementing GTS were leadership support, dialogue with faculty, broad engagement of the institutional community, avoidance of tunnel vision, and the use of pilot courses to test concepts and methods. GTS can be viewed as the foundation for the scientific and clinical career development of future physicians.
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