The adoption of learning communities by medical schools is revolutionizing the way in which medical students prepare for their careers as physicians. In 1998, the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine established learning communities to enhance the medical school experience for students. Recognizing the opportunities for learning, leadership and service that exist outside of the traditional classroom, Carver College of Medicine was one of the first medical schools in the country to actually design and construct a state-of the-art medical education facility to help realize a vision for community learning.

Since that time, other medical schools have created their own unique vision for incorporating a learning community environment into their educational programs and have hosted conferences and campus visits for students and faculty from medical schools considering adoption of a learning community model.  These activities have raised awareness of the rich variety of approaches medical schools have taken to develop communities that reflect the distinctive cultures and missions of their institutions.


The Learning Communities Institute (LCI) is a group that values and supports the active presence of learning communities (LCs) based in health professions schools.   LC’s go by many names (e.g. societies, colleges, docent teams, houses, mentorship groups).  While schools and communities may differ greatly on whether the predominant focus is curricular (e.g. clinical skills training) or extra-curricular (e.g. advising/social), LC’s are typically comprised of individuals who share:

  • Common values and purpose
  • Sense of personal membership
  • Personal influence and fulfillment of individual needs

Within medical schools, typical LC activities include: advising, mentoring and career planning; training in clinical skills, medical professionalism and/or ethics; fostering relationships between students and faculty, and amongst students community service and team building; curriculum development; and social networking and vertical integration of students across class years.  The LCI will strive to function as a learning community for faculty and students engaged in and interested in learning communities and wishing to collaborate across institutions.

Although the LCI is founded by leaders of medical school LC’s, we invite dialogue and collaboration with students, faculty and leaders of learning communities across the health professions to deepen and enrich the scope and understanding of learning communities in professional education.