The standardized family: an innovation in primary care education at the University of Massachusetts

Michele P. Pugnaire, University of Massachusetts Medical School
S. L. Leong
Mark E. Quirk, University of Massachusetts Medical School
Kathleen M. Mazor, University of Massachusetts Medical School
J. M. Gray

Document Type Article


In 1995 as part of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Generalist Physician Initiative, the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Medical School developed the "standardized family" as a new model for teaching the essential elements of primary care in a core curriculum format outside of the clinical setting. Using this model, a hypothetical family unit (the "McQ Family") serves as the focus for case-based clinical problem solving. This paper describes the standardized family model and provides two years of evaluation outcomes such as curriculum assessments, student performance outcomes, and correlation with external measures of clinical performance to support the effectiveness of this educational model. It discusses the transferability of the standardized family model from UMass Medical School to Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine and uses Pennsylvania State's adaptation (the "Hershey-Penn Family") to illustrate how the standardized family can be customized to integrate a core curriculum into a three-year longitudinal primary care program. The authors suggest that the standardized family model has the potential to meet a broad range of primary care teaching needs at other institutions.