M.D. with Distinction in Quality Improvement and Patient Safety

The M.D. with Distinction in Quality Improvement and Patient Safety provides a framework for advanced training in the science and methods of quality improvement. The curriculum exposes students to quality improvement activities within UT Southwestern Medical Center hospitals and clinics, and provides students with a basic knowledge of the methodology of quality improvement, and the practical experience of participating in quality improvement projects with the potential for publication.

Individuals satisfying the program requirements will be recognized at graduation and on their diploma as graduating with the degree of Doctor of Medicine, with Distinction in Quality Improvement and Patient Safety.


Before starting any requirements that count toward the Distinction in Quality Improvement and Patient Safety, interested students must submit a formal application, a CV, and a personal statement describing their interest in clinical quality improvement and patient safety. The personal statement should include a description of how the experience will be used in their future career path.
Download the application form.

Students may apply at any point during medical school, but applications must be received and approved by January 31 of the year prior to the anticipated graduation date (e.g., by January 31, 2014, for an expected 2015 graduation). 

Quality Improvement and Patient Safety Curriculum

The Distinction in Quality Improvement and Patient Safety requires 16 weeks of quality improvement activities (pre-approved by the track director) and a curriculum of educational enrichment. The curriculum requirements include:

  • Completing the required online Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) modules.
  • Attending and participating in monthly or bimonthly didactic sessions.
  • Completing a quality improvement capstone presentation or abstract by graduation.

Level 1 – Basics of Quality Improvement

This level of competency will be provided through multiple venues including attendance at sessions by UT Southwestern faculty and national experts in various areas of quality improvement. Students will also complete modules offered by the local chapter of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) Open School, which provides online training modules covering basic quality improvement methodology.

UTSW Session/Didactic Topics

  • Introduction to quality improvement
  • Examples of successful quality improvement projects
  • Introduction to quality improvement methodology and tools
    • Economics of medicine and future of quality metrics
    • Leadership and change management
    • Basics of PDCA, Lean, and Six Sigma methodologies
    • Root cause analysis and fishbone (Ishikawa) diagrams
    • Check lists
    • Pareto charts
    • Process mapping
    • Random versus special cause variation/run charts and control charts
    • Data collection, measurement, and statistics
    • Scatter plots and correlation
    • Human factors and process engineering
    • Case studies

UTSW Clinical Safety and Effectiveness Course Speakers

  • Brent James, M.D. – Quality improvement methodology and history
  • Alan Morris, M.D. – Clinical decision support
  • James Reinertsen, M.D. – Leadership and change management
  • Teamwork and Crew Resource Management (CRM)

IHI Open School Training Modules 

  • Modules to be determined

Level 2 – Participation in Quality Improvement Activities

To earn the M.D. with Distinction in Quality Improvement and Patient Safety, students must participate in quality improvement activities, including: 

  • Quality improvement electives
  • Summer employment with an approved quality improvement activity
  • Quality improvement projects 

Quality Improvement Capstone Paper

To receive the Distinction in Quality Improvement and Patient Safety, each graduate will submit a written or oral presentation of a completed quality improvement project. The project must be approved by the responsible faculty and facilitated by the Office of Quality Improvement and Safety at UT Southwestern. Capstone presentations will follow the format outlined in the quality improvement training course. More than one student may work on the same project if approved by the responsible faculty. The project must be submitted for publication or as an abstract to an approved quality improvement or patient safety conference.

Quality Improvement Capstone Presentation

All participating students will give a formal presentation of the program or results to an audience that includes members of their committee. This presentation must take place before March 15 of the graduating semester for the Distinction in Quality Improvement and Patient Safety to be listed on their diploma.