Putting the ‘Plus’ in Medical Education

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Western University is creating progressive new learning pathways for Canada’s brightest minds.

Unique in Canada, the newly launched MD+ track at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry allows future physicians to combine a second degree or diploma with their Doctor of Medicine education.

“We at Western wanted to re-think how we educate the physicians of tomorrow,” said Dr. John Yoo, dean of Schulich Medicine & Dentistry. “MD+ provides the opportunity to personalize the learning journey and to experience interdisciplinary, experiential learning in a wide variety of subjects.”

MD+ gives learners the time, financial and academic support to pursue professional and graduate training while completing their medical degree.

With four different pathways – thesis based, course-based, concurrent or international – students can enhance their core Doctor of Medicine learning with studies in areas including basic science, the history of medicine, public health and global health or even business, music and space studies.

The innovative new path allows Western students to tailor their learning to their interests and passions, empowering them to define their education on their own terms.

At the end of four or five years of highly individualized study, students will graduate with a Doctor of Medicine degree along with a degree, diploma or certificate.

For medical student Shaily Brahmbhatt, starting a new journey on the MD+ track means personalizing her education, exploring her passions and gaining skills to provide the world with the next level of patient care.

While Brahmbhatt aspires to one day work in pediatric and surgical care, it was her desire to address reconciliation in medicine and improve barriers to health care access for Indigenous Peoples and individuals living in rural and remote areas that led her to pursue a Master’s in Public Health through MD+.

Just a few months into her new learning, Brahmbhatt says she’s already been pushed outside of her comfort zone and hasn’t looked back.

“I’ve had to shift my perception of what a ‘right answer’ looks like or how to think about complex problems from a different framework,” Brahmbhatt said.

Working through challenging case studies with her peers, including doctors, nurses and public health professionals, has brought fresh perspectives to her budding career as a physician.

“It’s eye-opening to see how our different worldviews and experiences shape how we look at problems,”

Brahmbhatt said. “It’s given me an appreciation for the type of diversity I’ll encounter in the real world.” Brahmbhatt hopes to make a real difference in the lives of her patients, where she aims to address communitylevel, systemic barriers through policy, research and patient care.

As a unique learning experience in Canada, MD+ is setting her up on a path to do just that.

“The study of health is a life-long undertaking and although the learning curve is steep in medical school, it still only scratches the surface of the vast profession. Being able to take a year off to fully immerse myself in a particular area of health and dedicate my time to building my critical thinking and teamwork skills so early on in my career will help me in my clinical and academic pursuits,” Brahmbhatt said. “I believe the MD+ track will allow students to expand their worldview and expertise, allowing us to become more well-rounded leaders.”

MD+ was inspired in part by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which highlighted how a variety of factors – from politics, economics and business to social justice and the environment – can intersect and influence health.

“The pandemic has taught us that there is so much more to understanding disease and wellness than just medicine,” Yoo said.

More complex problems require more complex solutions and more diverse, innovative minds to solve them –pathbreakers the MD+ track is poised to foster.

“Some of the greatest innovation, brightest ideas and most prolific out-of the-box thinking comes from people who have a broad perspective of the world and draw on concepts from outside their specific area of expertise,” Yoo said. “The MD+ experience is going to create the next generation of leaders.”

To learn more about the MD+ track, Shaily Brahmbhatt, and other students like her, visit news.westernu.ca/mdtrack/

By Max Martin