Italy has a long history of versatility in medical training in which the tension between 'knowing' and 'doing' is a recurrent theme dating from the origins of the first European medical faculties in Bologna in the eleventh century. Italian medical schools are currently undergoing widespread reforms building on two decades of concerted efforts by medical educators to move from traditional teacher and subject-centred degree programmes to integrated student-centred curricula. European higher education policies have helped drive this process. A challenge in these developments is that the adoption of integrated and outcomes-based curricula in medicine requires a discursive shift in teaching practices. While investment in teacher training is essential, it is also important for educational leaders in medicine to communicate a compelling vision of the type of health professional medical schools are aiming to produce. Systematic educational research should accompany this transition to evaluate the process and gauge sustainability. Investigation should also examine how external influences and pressures are calibrated and adapted to the national context and epistemology. The adoption of a common international vocabulary to describe educational processes means Italy will be able to participate more fully in the European medical education debate in future.
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