Health Systems Science

As part of the undergraduate medical school experience, Penn State College of Medicine students take three core classes devoted to the science of health systems and participate in a longitudinal patient navigation experience.

Through the Science of Health Systems courses (SHS711 and SHS712), students learn the foundations of health systems, health care delivery, financing, insurance, population and public health, socio-ecological medicine, quality, safety, value, and teamwork and leadership.

The Translating Healthcare Science to the Clinical Setting course (THS743) is designed to help fourth-year medical students apply concepts of patient safety, quality improvement, value and teams to the clinical setting and provide an introduction to public health.

The patient navigation program allows students to begin learning about health care delivery in their first year of study by serving as guides, helping patients navigate through the sometimes complicated process of getting the care they need.

Another program, the Health Systems Science Academy, is offered to faculty and staff educators who then become champions of health systems science.

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Learn More About Health Systems Science for MD Students

Health Systems Science Curriculum Expand answer

The Science of Health Systems courses are offered throughout the fall and spring semesters of year one and the fall semester of year two.

Course Themes

Core domains covered by the Science of Health Systems courses include:

  • Structures and processes
  • Policy and economics
  • Clinical informatics
  • Public and population health
  • Value-based care
  • Health systems improvement

Cross-cutting domains include:

  • Leadership and change agency
  • Teamwork
  • Evidence-based medicine
  • Professionalism and ethics
  • Scholarship

These themes are taught using this sequence:

  • Year 1, Fall: Patient navigation; health systems and reform
  • Year 1, Spring: Population and public health; socio-ecological medicine
  • Year 2, Fall: Preparation for clerkships; evidence-based medicine; improvement, leadership and change

A thread of teamwork and leadership follows students throughout these classes and experiences.

Translating Health Systems Science to the Clinical Setting

The art of translating health systems science to the clinical setting includes many parts.

Educational components include:

  • Public and community health
  • Health systems
  • Health systems improvement
  • Transitions of care
  • Patient safety

Methods for teaching and learning include:

  • Large-group lectures and discussions
  • Small-group discussions
  • Case-based learning
  • Experiential learning
  • Team projects
  • Simulation

See the full MD curriculum sequence

Patient Navigation Expand answer

A key part of the longitudinal Systems Navigation Curriculum is the patient navigation program.

As patient navigators students begin learning about health care delivery in their first year of study by serving as guides, helping patients navigate through the sometimes complicated process of getting the care they need.

Through patient navigation and the three health systems courses, students begin to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes to function effectively amid the complexities of an evolving health system.

Learn more about Patient Navigation

Meet the Health Systems Science Team Expand answer
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