Curriculum Description

Select year below to view course/rotation descriptions and their lengths  ...

YEAR ONE

Foundations of Human Health Module

Foundations of Human Health introduces the principles of basic and clinical sciences and lays the foundation for medical practice. It provides students with tools to effectively master application-based material in the subsequent systems-based modules. Students will develop the ability to identify key principles of human health and disease in both the internal biologic milieu and the external environment.  Basic mechanisms of human biology, psychology and social systems are developed, as all are essential to clinical reasoning, problem solving, patient-centered care and systems-based practice.

Throughout this module students will engage in lectures, team-based learning sessions, independent study and clinical experiences. These activities will provide students with opportunities to strengthen communication skills, observe and participate in systems-based practice, and exercise practice-based learning techniques in a variety of settings that require and foster professional behavior and personal integrity.

Musculoskeletal Module

This module uses an integrated curriculum of basic science and clinical material to develop the students’ knowledge and ability to describe and diagnose conditions of the skin and the musculoskeletal systems. In order to cultivate this ability in the student, team-based and small-group learning exercises, lectures, anatomy labs, hands-on clinical skills labs, independent learning, clinical experiences, and the study of anatomic and radiological images will be utilized.

The module will begin with an introduction to dermatology, muscle and connective tissue. This will include illustrative cases that portray these tissues in normal physiology, development and aging, and disease. In the musculoskeletal segment, students will study the structures of the musculoskeletal system of the upper and lower extremity and head and neck, in both the normal and diseased states. At the end of the module, the students will have learned how to apply their emerging knowledge of normal and abnormal structure, as well as function of these tissues and systems in order to recognize and ultimately treat conditions associated with injury and/or illness. Given the nature and frequency of abnormal musculoskeletal conditions within our society, especially in geriatrics and sports, a comprehensive, interdisciplinary and holistic approach to the professional care for these individuals will be emphasized.

Infectious Disease & Immunology Module

The Infectious Disease & Immunology Module covers the immune system that defends the body against infection. Both of these systems affect all organ systems and are critical for human health. The module will focus on fundamental knowledge regarding the normal development, structure and function of the hematologic and immune systems, how these systems interface with infectious agents and how defects in these systems cause health problems such as cancer, immunodeficiency, allergy, autoimmunity and infection. Thus, the module will equip students to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying each disorder and will develop their ability to deliver appropriate patient care through proper diagnosis, treatment, management and prevention of these diseases.

Throughout the module, students will engage in lectures, small-group learning sessions, independent study and clinical experiences. These activities will provide students with opportunities to strengthen communication skills, observe and participate in systems-based practice and exercise practice-based learning techniques in a variety of settings that require and foster professional behavior and personal integrity. 

Cardiovascular System Module

The Cardiovascular System Module is designed to provide students with an in-depth survey of the cardiovascular system in health and disease, integrating concepts across disciplines. Each week in the seven-week module is topically focused and the week's content is framed by introduction and discussion of relevant clinical vignettes.  Development and aging in the cardiovascular system, cardiac function and rhythmicity, regulation of blood pressure, vascular function and dysfunction, risk factors for and epidemiology of cardiovascular disease, basics of clinical treatment strategies, and disparities in access to healthcare will be discussed.         

Students will master content through a combination of learning strategies, including small-group learning, lectures, laboratories and independent self-study. In parallel, students will gain experience in developing patient history, as well as basic clinical skills relevant to assessment of cardiovascular function. 

Urinary System Module

The Urinary System Module covers the kidneys and the urogenital system including ureters, urinary bladder and prostate.  The lecture series of the module begins with the normal development and structure of the urogenital system, moves into the normal physiology of the kidney, introduces the action of pharmacological agents relevant to kidney function, and concludes with introduction of pathological processes of infectious, oncological and immune injury.

Throughout the module, students are engaged in learning activities that challenge them to explore further the mechanisms of disease, the application of basic principles of organ structure and function to disease states, and approaches to problem-solving in the consideration of ethical and medical issues confronting patients with kidney disease. The students will be schooled in the evaluation of kidney diseases through direct patient evaluation as well as the radiological and laboratory evaluation of kidney and urogenital structure and function.

Through both directed and independent learning venues, the students will have the opportunity to foster lifelong learning skills, develop effective communications skills, and practice the cooperative skills needed to address the complex modes of effective delivery of medical care expected in the future.  In sum, students will be given a foundation of basic medical knowledge reaching from the cellular to the whole organ level and the means to apply mechanism of function and pathophysiology to understanding the care of patients with urogenital disease.

Clinical Skills

This course consists of formative instruction and interaction with simulated patients. Learners are instructed on how to (1) conduct a patient encounter, (2) take a patient history, (3) perform the essential elements of physical and mental status examinations, and (4) document their findings in the form of a patient note. The course content is coordinated to follow the sequence of pre-clerkship modules. The Clinical Skills course grade is determined by the final exam, an Observer-structured Clinical Examination (OSCE), which consists of four stations, each representing a different clinical encounter.

CLINIC 1

In the CLINIC 1 program, medical students in the first year are connected with physicians and caregivers in the local community to assist in developing their clinical skills. Students are exposed to the fields of Family Medicine, Pediatrics, OB/GYN and Internal Medicine. Students interview patients, take vitals, assist the staff, and eventually work toward taking a complete history and physical at the end of the first year. Students are required to complete a clinical logbook and reflective writings during their clinical experience. Students document patient diagnoses, treatment plans, and complete tasks to prepare them for their immersive third-year clinical year. Formative assessments from preceptors are included in the logbook and transferred to the competency-based evaluation of the Clinical Skills program. Students visit clinics six times during the year for a total of 24 clinic hours.

YEAR TWO

Ear, Nose & Throat Module

This module uses an integrated curriculum of basic science and clinical material to develop the student’s knowledge and ability to describe and diagnose conditions of the head and neck from cranial fossa to larynx.  We will use team-based and small-group learning exercises, lectures, anatomy labs, hands-on clinical skills labs, independent learning, clinical experiences and radiological imaging. The module will begin with an introduction to head and neck embryology. This will contrast the abnormal with normal development. In the anatomical segment, students will study the 12 cranial nerves as related to head and neck structures and learn to recognize the signs and symptoms resulting from nerve lesions. In addition, the students will learn the microbiology, physiology and pharmacology of the upper respiratory region.

The goal of this module is to provide pre-clerkship medical students with a comprehensive pathophysiologic understanding of the head and neck. The knowledge and skills acquired in this module will ultimately enable students to appropriately evaluate, diagnose, treat and manage a broad spectrum of head and neck injuries and/or illnesses during their clinical years and beyond.

Respiratory System Module

The Respiratory System Module will introduce students to the anatomy, physiology and pathophysiology of the respiratory system with a particular focus on the lung’s central role in gas-exchange and fluid balance. Normal and abnormal anatomy from the sinuses, oral/nasopharynx and upper airways to the lower respiratory tract, including the structures of the chest wall and thoracic cavity, will be presented through the combined use of prosections and radiologic imaging. The mechanics of breathing as well as the impact of diseases of the airway, interstitium and pulmonary circulation on respiratory function will be taught using lecture, patient-oriented small group learning, clinical skills’ labs and independent learning.

Students will be taught the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in a broad category of lung diseases including obstructive disease, restrictive disease, pulmonary vascular disease, lung cancer and infections of the upper and lower respiratory tract. How these disease processes interact to alter gas-exchange leading to hypoxemia, hypercarbia and respiratory failure will be an integral part of this course. Students will also gain experience in the proper diagnosis, treatment and prevention of these respiratory diseases. The social impact of chronic respiratory disease on patients and their families, particularly for those with advanced disease, will also be highlighted during interactions with actual patients and in small group learning sessions. 

Digestive System Module

Studies in this module are focused on the mastery of clinical and scientific principles involving the normal anatomic and physiologic functions of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestine, along with the role of the pancreas and hepatobiliary tree. Secretory, motility and absorptive functions throughout the upper and lower GI tract are a major focus of study. Students will also develop an understanding of nutritional and metabolism disorders that are secondary complications of gastrointestinal and/or hepatobiliary disorders.

Integration is achieved across all major medical basic science disciplines, as studies proceed throughout different portions of the digestive system at all levels, from molecular to cellular, to tissue, organ and organ system. Throughout the module, the mechanisms of normal function – including that of metabolism, nutrition and the normal microflora – are studied in contrast with abnormal or disease states in order to develop the foundation for understanding pathophysiologic mechanisms. Teaching methods include large group/lecture, small group, case based, learning activities, laboratories, computer simulations, self-study and experiences that foster the development of clinical skills and professional attitudes involving contact with patients in the clinic and hospital, as well as with simulated patients.

Neuroscience and Behavioral Science Module

The Neuroscience and Behavioral Science Module is a 12-week module designed to provide students with the knowledge and skills to understand and evaluate normal function, disease processes, injuries and psychiatric disorders of the human nervous system. The first 10 weeks of study focus on the anatomy, biology and function of the central and peripheral nervous systems as students learn the diagnostic methods and criteria, pathophysiology and treatments of prevalent and prototypical neurologic injuries and disorders. Training shifts in the final two weeks to behavioral science as students learn about the classification, clinical presentation, psychopathology and treatment of prevalent psychiatric conditions.

Upon completion of the module, students will have a fundamental understanding of the structure and function of the human nervous system, the clinical manifestations of common neurologic and psychiatric disorders, as well as treatments for these conditions. Students will learn to take an accurate neurologic history, conduct the essential elements of the neurologic exam, perform a psychiatric assessment, and develop interpersonal skills and professional attitudes expected in the practice of neurology and psychiatry.

Endocrine and Reproductive Systems Module

The Endocrine and Reproductive Systems Module will enable students to acquire and apply knowledge of human development and reproduction and endocrine homeostasis. Lectures, small-group discussions, self-study, laboratory work, clinical experiences and patient simulation exercises will be utilized to advance the students’ understanding of the embryological and anatomical development of the reproductive tract and its physiological function, as well as the evaluation of the clinical presentation, prevention and treatment of male and female reproductive disorders, sexually transmitted infections and breast diseases. Students will participate in small group discussions of human sexuality and sexual dysfunction. They will also develop their clinical examination skills working with instructors trained in teaching female pelvic and breast exam and male genital examinations. In the latter portion of the course, students will apply knowledge of endocrinology to discuss the role of hormones in development, growth and metabolism as well as understand the pathology of endocrine disorders. Students will participate in small group conferences on diabetes, adrenal, thyroid, and calcium disorders as well as participate in clinical skills exercises in which these disorders are recognized.

Multisystem Disorders Module 

The Multisystem Disorders Module focuses on diseases that affect the whole body or involve multiple organs (e.g., atherosclerosis, diabetes mellitus, vitamin deficiencies and HIV). Each day, a novel topic is interactively reviewed and discussed by a faculty expert in the field. Students and faculty use higher order board-style questions as a platform for discussion.      

Students will apply basic science principles to solve clinical problems involving multiple organ systems. They will integrate multiple, organ-specific manifestation of disease into a simple etiological and pathogenetic mechanism and formulate diagnostic and treatment strategies for diseases affecting multiple systems. Students will discuss basic science concepts of multisystem disorders in preparation for Step 1 and will be exposed to Step 1-like questions.

Clinical Skills

This course consists of formative instruction and interaction with simulated patients. Learners are instructed on how to (1) conduct a patient encounter, (2) take a patient history, (3) perform the essential elements of physical and mental status examinations, and (4) document their findings in the form of a patient note. The course content is coordinated to follow the sequence of pre-clerkship modules. The Clinical Skills course grade is determined by the final exam, an Observer-structured Clinical Examination (OSCE), which consists of four stations, each representing a different clinical encounter.

CLINIC 2

In the CLINIC 2 program, medical students in the second year are connected with physicians in USA hospitals and clinics as well as in the local community to assist in developing their clinical skills and offer future career exploration. Students may choose from a variety of specialties, some not included in the third- year clerkships, allowing early exposure to potential career paths. Students are required to complete a clinical logbook and reflective writings during their clinical experience. Students document patient diagnoses, treatment plans, and complete tasks to prepare them for their immersive third-year clinical year. Formative assessments from preceptors are included in the logbook and transferred to the competency-based evaluation of the Clinical Skills program. Students choose one rotation each semester and attend each rotation three times for a total of 24 hours per academic year.

YEAR THREE

Third-year students rotate through seven clerkships over the course of their junior year:

Family Medicine (6 weeks)

The clerkship in Family Medicine teaches students about primary care and ambulatory medicine. It is unlike other core clerkships at USA, as the student will spend most of the rotation working one-on-one with a community faculty member in their private practice. In these offices, students will see a different population from that at the USA hospitals. This rotation will teach students how to care for many illnesses in the office setting so hospital admission can be avoided. Departmental faculty will teach concepts of preventive medicine, population medicine, health policy and chronic disease management in didactic and active-learning methods. A two-stage interview of a standardized patient in an OSCE format allows students to demonstrate learned skills in chronic disease management in the outpatient setting. Medical students see firsthand the diversity and breadth of family medicine while learning patient care across the spectrum of specialties and in the context of comprehensive care.

Internal Medicine (12 weeks)

During the Internal Medicine clerkship, students are taught basic disease mechanisms and general principles of diagnosis and patient management. The student utilizes current medical literature in addition to standard texts for the acquisition of information. The student is responsible for the diagnostic evaluation and care of patients under the supervision of the attending physician and the ward resident. Rounds are made daily with the house staff and with the attending physician. The average team consists of one attending physician, one resident, two to three interns and three students. Didactic conferences, small-group learning exercises, case-based discussions, simulation exercises and board review lectures are provided each week on topics relating to common problems in medical diagnosis and patient management. Each student will also be assigned two inpatient ward rotations each four weeks in length. In addition, the student will complete four weeks of ambulatory medicine, which is composed of primary care medicine and sub-specialty exposure.

Neurology (4 weeks)

The Neurology rotation includes time on both inpatient and outpatient services, including performing hospital and Emergency Room consultations. The student will become proficient in performing a neurological examination and will learn the basic principles underlying diagnosis and management of most common neurologic disorders.

Obstetrics and Gynecology (6 weeks)

The Obstetrics and Gynecology rotation consists of Labor and Delivery, Night Float, High-Risk Obstetrics Clinic, Ambulatory Clinic, Gynecologic Surgery and Gynecologic Oncology. During this clerkship, the student experiences inpatient and outpatient care at USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital, Center Street Clinic, Women’s Center, Mostellar Medical Clinic and Mobile Infirmary Medical Center. Students participate in pre-rounds with residents, rounds with attendings, vaginal deliveries, caesarean sections, laparoscopies, robotic surgeries, open abdominal cases and vaginal surgeries. Didactics consist of case-based learning activities during lunch on weekdays and then formal teaching on Friday's with team-based learning activities and simulation labs.

Pediatrics (8 weeks)

During the Pediatric clerkship, students rotate through ambulatory and inpatient settings. The ambulatory experience includes participation in the general pediatrics and pediatric subspecialty clinics. The inpatient experience includes student participation in the general pediatric wards, nursery and the pediatric hematology/oncology wards. During the clerkship, students participate in simulations, small group learning exercises and interactive lectures. Several didactic activities focus on the application of basic science in the pediatric clinical setting. The multiple clerkship experiences provide the students with ample opportunity for self-directed learning, cognitive application, practice of clinical skills and demonstration of required attitudes.

Psychiatry (4 weeks)

The student is taught basic signs, symptoms, etiology and management of psychiatric diseases during the Psychiatry clerkship. The clerkship includes exposure to adult inpatient and outpatient services, child and adolescent psychiatry, as well as consultation-liaison at the BayPointe facility of Mobile Mental Health, Inc. Working with patients' families, where possible, is an integral part of all services. Another integral part of the clerkship is emergency psychiatry, since psychiatric illness is remarkably common in patients who seek care in the emergency room.

Surgery (8 weeks)

The clinical clerkship in Surgery consists of three two-week rotations on Trauma, Colorectal Surgery and General or GI Surgery, as well as a one-week rotation on CVT or at USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital, and a one-week elective. The goals of the clerkship are (1) to develop an understanding of the pathophysiology, evaluation and management of surgical problems commonly encountered in general practice; (2) to provide exposure to general surgery and the surgical subspecialties; (3) to develop basic technical skills; (4) to foster the interest of students considering a career in surgery. These goals are achieved primarily through teaching rounds, intraoperative teaching, supervised patient care and basic surgical skills labs, as well as team-based learning activities and lectures.

Third-Year Selectives

During the third year, medical students have the opportunity to spend one month in one of the third-year selective courses. These include Orthopaedic Surgery, Emergency Medicine, Pathology, Radiology, Research and Neurosurgery. This option enhances career exploration opportunities prior to the end of the third year. Students who opt to participate in a third-year selective do so in place of the Neurology clerkship. Neurology will be deferred to year four.

YEAR FOUR

The fourth year is composed of 10 four-week elective rotations with 32 weeks required for graduation. All students must select one acting internship, one specialty and one basic science course in addition to the Transition to Residency course. Three rotations may be taken at sites away from the University.