Scholarly concentration program development: A generalizable, data-driven approach

Jesse Burk-Rafel*, Patricia B. Mullan, Heather Wagenschutz, Alexandra Pulst-Korenberg, Eric Skye, Matthew M. Davis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Scholarly concentration programs also known as scholarly projects, pathways, tracks, or pursuits are increasingly common in U.S. medical schools. However, systematic, data-driven program development methods have not been described. Method The authors examined scholarly concentration programs at U.S. medical schools that U.S. News & World Report ranked as top 25 for research or primary care (n = 43 institutions), coding concentrations and mission statements. Subsequently, the authors conducted a targeted needs assessment via a studentled, institution-wide survey, eliciting learners' preferences for 10 "Pathways" (i.e., concentrations) and 30 "Topics" (i.e., potential content) augmenting core curricula at their institution. Exploratory factor analysis (EFA) and a capacity optimization algorithm characterized best institutional options for learnerfocused Pathway development. Results The authors identifed scholarly concentration programs at 32 of 43 medical schools (74%), comprising 199 distinct concentrations (mean concentrations per program: 6.2, mode: 5, range: 1-16). Thematic analysis identifed 10 content domains; most common were "Global/Public Health" (30 institutions; 94%) and "Clinical/ Translational Research" (26 institutions; 81%). The institutional needs assessment (n = 468 medical students; response rate 60% overall, 97% among frst-year students) demonstrated myriad student preferences for Pathways and Topics. EFA of Topic preferences identifed eight factors, systematically related to Pathway preferences, informing content development. Capacity modeling indicated that offering six Pathways could guarantee 95% of frst-year students (162/171) their frst- or second-choice Pathway. Conclusions This study demonstrates a generalizable, data-driven approach to scholarly concentration program development that reffects student preferences and institutional strengths, while optimizing program diversity within capacity constraints.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S16-S23
JournalAcademic Medicine
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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