Curriculum Description

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

YEAR ONE

Patients and Human Structure (6 credit hours)

Patients and Human Structure introduces the biopsychosocial model approach to medicine and a general overview of the structure of the human body in a clinical context. It provides students with a patient-centered approach for clinical activities that incorporates multiple components of the patient including biological factors, psychological elements, and social influences. Students begin to develop skills required to identify and evaluate patterns of normal development over the lifespan. Basic structure of the human body is explored through physical observation, anatomical dissection, and common modes of medical imaging. Psychological and social aspects of medicine and patient care are explored through content and application of principles of diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism in healthcare. This builds the foundation for practicing culturally responsive medicine. These topics are integrated into forming an initial approach to interactions and communication with the patient, as well as other colleagues. The knowledge and skills introduced in this module help prepare students for future modules of the curriculum. 

Throughout the module the students engage in lectures, independent learning, reflection, small group activities, and clinical experiences. Medical science knowledge is applied using authentic situations presented in the context of clinical cases and virtual patients. During these activities the learner begins to develop communication skills with both the patient and fellow colleagues aligned with the professional expectations of a physician. At the conclusion of this module, the students have developed some initial foundational knowledge and basic clinical approaches that will be applied at deeper levels throughout their medical education and career as a physician.

Principles of Foundational Medicine (7 credit hours)

Principles of Foundational Medicine 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.

Principles of Infection and Immunity (6 credit hours)

The Principles of Infection and Immunity 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 (8 credit hours)

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 (6 credit hours)

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 communication 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.

Musculoskeletal System Module (5 credit hours)

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 provide education on 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 and anatomical 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. 

Clinical Skills 1

This course is the first of two year-long courses designed to introduce the learner to clinical patient care.  Much of this course involves interacting with simulated patients -- trained actors who memorize a scenario and play the part of a patient with a particular medical condition or symptom.  Students will learn to gather a patient history, perform physical examination, present their findings orally, and document their findings in a written patient note. Students will also complete required experiences in the clinical environment with actual patients through their involvement in CLINIC (Clinically Integrated Introductory Course).  In the CS1 course, the CLINIC visits will be in the primary care setting.  A required assignment in Evidence Based Medicine is also a part of the CLINIC experience.

The course grade consists of scores attained on OSCEs (observed structured clinical examinations), CBEs (competency-based evaluation), and the required CLINIC assignments. 

YEAR TWO

Digestive System Module (7 credit hours)

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. 

Respiratory System Module (6 credit hours)

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.  

Neuroscience and Behavioral Science Module (12 credit hours)

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 (7 credit hours)

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. 

Hematology and Oncology Systems Module 

The Hematology and Oncology Systems Module is designed to provide the scientific and clinical principles necessary to provide care to patients with hematologic and oncologic diseases.  Since these diseases involve and affect many organ systems, the module utilizes an integrative approach to reinforce many core concepts from previous modules.  In the current healthcare environment, oncologic care is dependent upon the interprofessional collaboration of multiple clinical specialties and disciplines.  As a result, teaching methods will focus on small group case-based activities, independent learning activities, and experiences promoting the development of the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to work in interprofessional teams.

 The hematology section of the course will focus on diseases associated with malignant hematology such as the leukemias.  Students will be introduced to the physiology, pathology, and pharmacology associated with these disorders. The oncology portion of the module will expose students to the cellular mechanisms, genetics, and pathophysiologic processes critical to the development of common malignancies.  Students will also develop an understanding of nutrition and metabolism associated with the pathogenesis and management of these disorders.  Strategies for screening and prevention of the common malignancies will also be highlighted in the small group learning sessions.

Clinical Skills 2

This course builds on the Clinical Skills 1 course to continue to develop and hone students' ability to draw on the medical knowledge attained in their modules and apply it to clinical patient care.  Learners will continue to add to their knowledge of various components of the physical examination, and they will develop skills in the arena of clinical reasoning.  Emphasis in this course will be on utilizing information gathered from history and physical examination to develop a prioritized differential diagnosis and propose a diagnostic workup and treatment plan. 

Required experiences in CLINIC will be in specialty settings, providing students with more real-world practice for their clinical skills, as well as an opportunity for early career exploration.  A required assignment in Evidence Based Medicine is also a part of the CLINIC experience. 

The course grade consists of scores attained on OSCEs (observed structured clinical examinations), CBEs (competency-based evaluation), and the required CLINIC assignments. 

YEAR THREE

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

Family Medicine (6 weeks - 6 credit hours)

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 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 - 12 credit hours)

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 subspecialty exposure.

Neurology (4 weeks - 4 credit hours)

The Neurology rotation includes time on both inpatient and outpatient services, including performing hospital and Emergency Department 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 - 6 credit hours)

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 students experience inpatient and outpatient care at USA Health 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 Fridays with team-based learning activities and simulation labs.

Pediatrics (8 weeks - 8 credit hours)

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 - 4 credit hours)

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 Center. 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 - 8 credit hours)

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 Health 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 (4 credit hours each)

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.