Areas of Concentration Program

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Throughout medical school at WCMC, students are encouraged to explore and investigate many aspects of medicine, including laboratory science, clinical practice, population research, health information technology, medical education, culture, art, and history. A key component of the curriculum reform provides dedicated time designed to enrich the medical school experience by requiring each student to select an Area of Concentration in which to obtain in-depth knowledge, skills, and a scholarly effort. Student (with the exception of the MD-PhD students) will be required to identify an Area of Concentration (AOC), which is a broadly defined topic area, typically, but not necessarily, interdisciplinary in nature. Students will receive guidance as they "shop around" for an AOC that interests them; they will be able to choose from a menu of topic areas or customize a unique topic area tailored to his or her individual interest. Those who wish to design their own AOC may do so with the stipulation that they identify a willing faculty member or faculty group to sponsor and oversee that AOC.

Take a look at the List of AOCs on offer!

Pathways & Leadership

Overall, the AOC Program is led and overseen by the AOC Program Director, Dr. Andrew Schafer.

In addition three broad methodologically based student academic Pathways have been named. Their purpose is to divide all students and AOCs into 3 groups for coordinated oversight. It is expected that there will be overlap between and among the Pathways, though each of them will have its own core curriculum activities.

  • Laboratory Sciences (overseen by Dr. Anthony Brown)
  • Clinical Sciences (overseen by Dr. Mark Pecker)
  • Population Sciences (overseen by Dr. Madelon Finkel)
Entering the AOC Program

During their first year of medical school, all students will take pre-requisite foundation courses common to all AOCs (e.g., Epidemiology/Biostatistics; Medical Ethics; Responsible Conduct of Research; Tutorial of IRB Basics). These will be centrally organized and administered in the medical school for all students. Based on a student survey in the very beginning of the first year, each student will be assigned one of four "AOC Exploratory Advisers" (Dr. Schafer, Dr. Brown, Dr. Pecker or Dr. Finkel) with whom they will individually meet during the first semester to begin exploring AOCs of potential personal interest.

AOC Leaders and Core Activities

The Exploratory Advisers will, in turn, steer their student advisees to AOC Leaders whose fields appear to be good fits for their interests. At different individual paces, the students will thus eventually narrow their searches to a "best fit" AOC of first choice and a choose a secondary AOC in addition, if they wish to do so. Secondary AOC is optional and should be used as a resource for exploration or interdisciplinary Scholarly Projects. Students are still required to complete a single SP.

Ideally, several students across all years of medical school will be in the same AOC, thus creating small communities of students with similar or complementary interests within the different AOCs. Each AOC will have its own Leader(s) and a menu of Core Activities in which students can participate during all four years of medical school. Core activities within any given AOC are listed and might include journal clubs, special lectures and demonstrations, seminar series, field trips, recorded lectures, grand rounds, online courses etc.

During their first 18 months, students should "shop around" to identify an AOC, attend Core Activities and begin to conceive of and design a Scholarly Project within that AOC.

Conducting AOC Scholarly Projects Off-Site

The vast majority of students will be expected to conduct their entire 6-month Scholarly Project (SP) at Weill Cornell Medical College, its affiliated institutions, or at approved overseas locations of the Weill Cornell Global Health initiatives. Every student, regardless of where the SP is conducted, must have a mentor who is a full-time Weill Cornell Medicine (WCM) faculty member. For students conducting their SP at an off-site location, a full-time member of the WCM faculty must be identified as a co-Mentor along with the off-site host Mentor, unless the off-site mentor has a WCM faculty appointment.

Please read more about Off-Site Scholarly Projects here.

Scholarly Project as the capstone requirement

Starting from the 2nd semester of the 3rd year (after the Clerkship year), students will have 6 + months of dedicated time to focus on their individual Scholarly Project, an independently developed piece of work based on a laboratory-, clinical- or population-based project under supervision of an individual Faculty Mentor. Individual Faculty Mentors will be expected to meet in person with their student(s) to provide guidance and monitor progress (and communicate by other means as frequently as needed). The Faculty Mentor is required among other duties to sign off on the student’s Scholarly Project's written Report, thus indicating that the final product has met all requirements of the AOC.

Read more about the Scholarly Project.

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