BACKGROUND: Two years ago our institution abbreviated the junior internal medicine and general surgery clerkships to accommodate a 4-week family practice clerkship and a 4-week elective clerkship. As a consequence, 1-month mandatory internal medicine and general surgery clerkships were placed in the senior year. METHODS: The surgical disorders most commonly encountered by the generalist are discussed. The senior students spend 4 weeks with a community-based surgeon. All lectures are presented by full- time faculty and adhere to the student manual, which is designed to coincide with examination material. Three histories and physicals are reviewed by the course director to determine utilization of critical thinking skills. The development of healthy interpersonal and professional relationships is addressed by a 2-hour module on the essentials of integrity, compassion, humility, and self-knowledge. A faculty development seminar provides an awareness of course objectives and logistics. Student grades are determined by the preceptor's evaluation (50%), an in-house written examination (50%), and submission of adequate history and physicals. RESULTS: Subjective reviews by students (n = 115) reveal that although only 27% of the students care to pursue a surgical practice, 85% feel that their time was effectively spent and 83% feel that the clerkship should be offered to future fourth year medical students. Seventy percent of submitted history and physicals (n = 420) exhibit appropriate critical thinking skills. CONCLUSIONS: We are currently in the midst of our third year of implementation. The students are receiving insight into a surgical approach to common disease processes. History and physical examination skills and healthy interpersonal relationships are reinforced. Although change is often difficult to accomplish and accept, the positive response to the newly formatted senior curriculum has exceeded expectations.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes