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Curriculum Reform

February Curriculum Reform Update


COMPASS: A Guide in the Trek Curriculum

February 2020

Shanta Zimmer 

Shanta Zimmer, MD, Senior

Associate Dean for Education

In the Trek Curriculum, students will have the opportunity to work with health professionals in a variety of classroom and clinical settings. Aligned with several of the guiding values for curriculum reform (longitudinal relationships, growth-mindset, vitality and well-being, outcomes based, and individualization), the COMPASS program supports each student by pairing them with a trusted faculty member, their COMPASS guide. The mission of the program is to inspire and support students in maximizing their personal and professional potential.  

What does COMPASS stand for?


Mindful reflection

Professional Identify Formation


Self-directed learning


How will a COMPASS Guide work with students?

Each student in the Trek curriculum will have a COMPASS guide –a faculty member who can facilitate self-reflection and approach a student’s individual development with a growth mindset. These guides will have a set number of students each year and will work with this cohort throughout their training in medical school. Guides will serve as small group facilitators for Health and Society content in the Plains and meet regularly with each student to provide feedback and coaching. . This structure creates devoted and focused time for the guide and student to foster their own unique relationship. 

The COMPASS guide is not meant to be the student’s only support, but rather the anchor in a “Web of Support.” As a student progresses through their medical career, they will add connections to their web—their preceptors, clinical team members, mentors for scholarly pursuits, and career advisors. By having an established COMPASS guide, students will have a primary point of contact to assist  with reflecting and learning from their experiences, connecting with additional supports when necessary, and  exploring career paths and opportunities.

 Because this type of coaching is going to be critical to students as they embark on their medical education, there have been certain time periods set aside in the curriculum for students to meet with their guide and focus on the other aspects of COMPASS. During the first year, or the Plains, students will have five designated COMPASS weeks interspersed between the blocks specifically designed to focus on the goals of the COMPASS program.  During these weeks, students will take cumulative assessments to gauge their progress, meet with their guide to review their progress and consider future steps, and have time for mindful reflection and self-directed learning.  In addition, these weeks contain 2 days of unstructured time for individualized pursuits—whether to pursue academic interests or to focus on well-being.  These weeks will allow students to reflect upon their individual wellbeing, their current academic status, and prepare mentally and academically for their path ahead.

 The COMPASS program will ultimately replace the current Advisory College Program (ACP).  As compared to ACP, COMPASS includes a much broader role for the Guides with an emphasis on longitudinal relationships with smaller groups of students, meaningful teaching roles, and comprehensive assessment and coaching.  We will be piloting some COMPASS content during the hybrid with a plan for full role out in the Trek curriculum.  The School of Medicine anticipates the applications for these positions to be available late 2020. For more information on the COMPASS program please contact Tai Lockspeiser. 

 Recent Website Questions:

Q: Are we, as a medical school, pursuing change for the sake of innovation or changing to have a more effective training experience and curriculum? What are the quality measurement points of LICs vs block clerkships?

In the research conducted by Dr. David Hirsh at Harvard, the quantitative data, such as exam scores, is similar between block clerkships and Longitudinal Integrated Clerkships. However, the qualitative data that was collected demonstrates that LIC programs create an increase in empathy, an increase in patient centeredness, and a decrease in student burnout.

Q: With the implementation of the new Trek Curriculum, has the School of Medicine considered using EPAs to measure student benchmarks?

Yes! The School of Medicine will be using the AAMC core EPAs for entering residency in the Trek curriculum.  These EPAs will be a key component of our expected outcomes for CUSOM graduates and will form the bulk of the clinical assessments of students. ​