Over the past ten years the University of New Mexico School of Medicine has conducted an educational experiment featuring learner-centered, problem-based, community-oriented learning. The experiment was introduced into an established institution by means of an innovative educational track running parallel to the more conventional curriculum. Students in the innovative track, compared with those in the conventional track, tended to score lower on the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) Part I examination (basic sciences) and higher on NBME Part II (clinical sciences), received higher clinical grades on clinical clerkships, and experienced less distress. They were more likely than conventional-track students to retain their initial interest in or switch their preference to careers in family medicine. The parallel-track strategy for introducing curriculum reform succeeded in fostering institutional acceptance of continuing educational innovation. Generic steps in overcoming institutional barriers to change are identified.
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