Design thinking, also known as human-centered design, is a problem-solving framework for addressing complex, system-based challenges. UVA is at the forefront of a growing group of medical schools and health systems exploring how design thinking can be integrated into medical education. Students engage in hands-on ‘design sprint’ workshops focused on priority healthcare issues, using data they collect through direct engagement with patients, healthcare leaders and community members. The UVA Medical Design Program (UVAMDP) gives future physicians the skills, confidence and experience they need to help address complex patient care and public health challenges throughout their careers.
The program was created in 2015, focusing on instruction to first-year medical students. However, due to continued growth and demand, UVAMDP received a second Jefferson Trust grant in 2019 to help expand access to ‘health design thinking’ curriculum and workshops. Funds went towards developing credit courses and electives for medical students throughout their time at UVA and to develop online versions of program workshops that can be shared as research within and outside of the UVA School of Medicine.
The Medical Design Program has become an established and valued part of the medical education culture and offerings at UVA, such that prospective students are consistently inquiring about the program. Medical design lectures are being integrated throughout the school’s curriculum, both in workshops to the entire second-year class and in a new elective for fourth-year students approved by the school’s curriculum committee, with the first course being offered in February 2021.
In addition, and most relevant to 2020, the Medical Design Program team was able to quickly assist in the School of Medicine’s response to COVID-impacted students by quickly developing and deploying virtual five-day design sprint workshops for third- and fourth-year students who were not allowed onto clinical wards, but needed to continue their studies. While their project has been delayed due to the demands of adapting to COVID-19, the pandemic has also helped the team think critically on the types of flipped classrooms and online learning curriculum that will be most useful as long-term educational offerings for students.
Not only is the program impacting medical students and faculty, it is also providing a center for multi-disciplinary collaboration focused on improving public health and healthcare through design thinking and other design approaches. Faculty engagements with the Medical Design Program are from across Grounds, including Architecture, Engineering, Nursing, Darden and the College.
The Medical Design Thinking Team, led by Dr. Matthew Trowbridge, has been nationally recognized for their work, publishing peer review articles, contributing to a recently published ‘Health Design Thinking’ textbook, and speaking widely about their work and impact at UVA. You can visit their website to learn more.