ChangeMedEd Initiative

New med school: Train physicians to treat diverse consumers and communities 


Kaiser Permanente has announced that it will open its own medical school that will educate physicians to meet 21st-century demands of diverse consumers and communities. 

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“Shifts in the U.S. population have created more diverse communities, which require greater cultural competency and understanding,” a news release notes. “The Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine will teach advanced skills in decision-making, teamwork, the use of technology, evidenced-based medicine and communication tailored to specific populations.”  

The school will redesign physician education around strategic pillars that include providing high-quality care beyond traditional medical settings, acknowledging the central importance of collaboration and teamwork to inform treatment decisions, and addressing disparities in health.  

An L.A. Times article about the new school gave insight into its mission: “The company wants to recruit more minority students and teach doctors how to care for a diverse patient population, two goals medical schools throughout the country have been trying to achieve with mixed results. Many ethnic groups are under-represented in medical schools, leading to concerns that doctors might struggle to treat some minority groups, especially Latinos, who make up about 17 percent of the U.S. population but only about 9 percent of medical students, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. By acknowledging that one of its new school's primary focuses will be on diversity, Kaiser executives are sending a key message, said James Prescott, the group's chief academic officer. ‘When a school starts, it's important to understand their mission, and when Kaiser says diversity and meeting needs of community are top goals, it's powerful,’ Prescott said.”

Currently, more than 600 new physicians complete their residency programs at Kaiser Permanente, and 18,000 doctors work for its affiliated medical groups. The health care system has 38 hospitals and a large network of clinics that serve more than 10 million patients in eight states and the District of Columbia. The school is scheduled to open in the fall of 2019 with 46 students in the first class. It will be located in Southern California, where physicians in training will be immersed in an environment of cultural and economic diversity. 

“Opening a medical school and influencing physician education is based on our belief that the new models of care mean we must reimagine how physicians are trained,” said Bernard J. Tyson, chairman and CEO, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc. and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals. “Training a new generation of physicians to deliver on the promise of health and health care demonstrates our belief that our model of care is best for the current and future diverse populations in this country.”

The planning, design and implementation of the Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine will be led by a multidisciplinary team of physician, health plan and operational leaders. National Quality Forum CEO Christine K. Cassel, MD, will join the team responsible for designing an innovative new approach to training the physicians of tomorrow. Recruitment for the founding dean will begin in 2016.