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Med Teach. 2002 May;24(3):280-5.

Pros and cons of vertical integration between clinical medicine and basic science within a problem-based undergraduate medical curriculum: examples and experiences from Linköping, Sweden.

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Division of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Faculty of Health Sciences, Linköping University Hospital, S-581 85 Linköping, Sweden.


Problem-based learning (PBL), combined with early patient contact, multiprofessional education and emphasis on development of communications skills, has become the basis for the medical curriculum at the Faculty of Health Sciences in Linköping (FHS), Sweden, which was started in 1986. Important elements in the curriculum are vertical integration, i.e. integration between the clinical and basic science parts of the curriculum and horizontal integration between different subject areas. This article discusses the importance of vertical integration in an undergraduate medical curriculum, according to experiences from the Faculty of Health Sciences in Linköping, and also give examples on how it has been implemented during the latest 15 years. Results and views put forward in published articles concerning vertical integration within undergraduate medical education are discussed in relation to the experiences in Linköping. Vertical integration between basic sciences and clinical medicine in a PBL setting has been found to stimulate profound rather than superficial learning, and thereby stimulates better understanding of important biomedical principles. Integration probably leads to better retention of knowledge and the ability to apply basic science principles in the appropriate clinical context. Integration throughout the whole curriculum entails a lot of time and work in respect of planning, organization and execution. The teachers have to be deeply involved and enthusiastic and have to cooperate over departmental borders, which may produce positive spin-off effects in teaching and research but also conflicts that have to be resolved. The authors believe vertical integration supports PBL and stimulates deep and lifelong learning.

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