As a foundation of UMKC’s medical education program, the docent system takes the best of apprenticeship learning and combines it with small-group teaching, mentoring, peer coaching and other techniques.
Students start their education by joining a docent team, where they learn from one another, as well as from faculty physicians known as docents. In this setting, docents provide clinical instruction while also guiding students’ personal and professional development. The system develops the attitudes, beliefs, competencies, habits and standards students need to be the best physicians possible.
In first two years of the B.A./M.D. program, docent teams consist of 10 to 12 students from the same class. In the third year, students join new docent teams that mix students in years 3 through 6, as well as students entering UMKC’s four-year M.D. program. Docent units are based at the School of Medicine and Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City, a UMKC partner hospital, and provide individual offices, as well as common meeting space for the team.
By design, the docent system fosters a spirit of mentorship. A Year 3 student is paired with a Year 5 student, allowing the older student to serve as a mentor and friend. This junior-senior partnership continues for two years, until the more senior student graduates and the junior student takes the role of mentor.
The docent system emphasizes practical, bedside teaching. During years 3 through 6, teams spend half a day each week assisting their docent in an outpatient clinic, and two months with their teams on daily rounds at affiliate hospitals Truman Medical Center or Saint Luke’s Hospital. These experiences provide a wealth of clinical exposure and emphasize the team nature of modern medicine. Nurses, clinical pharmacists, medical librarians, social workers and other professionals join the docent physician in instructing students.
Docent teams have been part of UMKC’s medical education since its inception. The one-on-one and one-on-few experiences teach students how to use information, how to approach ambiguity and uncertainty, and how to think critically about challenges in medicine and biomedical science. It is a unique and outstanding program that continues to position the School of Medicine and its graduates among the best in the field.