Blocks and Clerkships (Tucson)

The ArizonaMed curriculum at the College of Medicine – Tucson is organized into interdisciplinary “blocks” which replace traditional courses. Blocks integrate material from multiple basic sciences like anatomy and pathology into broader perspectives.

Years I and II Blocks

Foundations (9 weeks)

The Foundations block fosters development of skills in evidence-based decision making, self-directed learning, communication, and professionalism, while also addressing medical topics including fundamentals of human biology, mechanisms of disease, and therapeutics. 

Foundations is designed to provide the student with the background knowledge and core scientific concepts necessary for progression to the study of specific organ systems, including: overview of human anatomy, structure and function of cells, storage and expression of genetic information, early development, mechanisms of disease, principles of therapeutics, principles of behavioral science, and principles of ethics. In addition, the Foundations block covers most aspects of skin and connective tissue required for USMLE Step I, including normal structure and function as well as common skin lesions and connective tissue disorders. 

Nervous System (9 weeks)

The Nervous System block is a comprehensive overview of general principles in neuroscience, neuropathology, neurology, neuropharmacology and psychiatry. The overarching goals are to introduce students to the structure and function of the human nervous system while integrating related histology, pathology, clinical applications in neurology, relevant psychiatry, psychopathology, pharmacological treatments and gross anatomy of the head and neck. The course also introduces concepts of rehabilitation, nutrition, exercise and ethical scenarios in cases of terminal genetic diseases.

Musculoskeletal System (5 weeks)

The Musculoskeletal System block provides a basic understanding of the musculoskeletal system designed to help students approach its clinical presentation in their future clinical practice. The block discusses:

  • The location and function of bones, muscles, peripheral nerves, and vessels of the limbs
  • The structure and physiology of the basic tissues of the musculoskeletal system (cartilage, bone, joint, and muscle)

Students are taught to use knowledge of anatomy and the tissues to approach musculoskeletal disease and injuries. Many diseases of the musculoskeletal system overlap with diseases of other systems, such as neurological and immunological disorders; therefore, this block builds upon material learned in the Foundations and Nervous System blocks and lays the foundation for material that will be encountered in subsequent blocks.

Finally, because many musculoskeletal diseases require chronic care, material in the block addresses issues of health care delivery for disability and chronic care.

Cardiovascular, Pulmonary, Renal Systems (12 weeks)

The Cardiovascular, Pulmonary and Renal Systems block is designed to provide students with an in-depth study of the cardiovascular, lymphatic, respiratory, renal and urinary systems using an integrated approach encompassing molecular and cellular biology, anatomy, histology, physiology, pathology, pharmacology, and clinical medicine.

Through the use of small group case-based exercises and team learning formats students are provided background knowledge in the basic and clinical sciences, physical examination and laboratory and imaging findings needed to determine general priorities for basic diagnostic and treatment strategies, and the use of evidence-based approaches to evaluate clinically relevant information.

Students will also be exposed to issues of age, gender, socio-economic status, ethnicity, and culture in patient care decisions, as well as the epidemiology and statistics relevant to cardiovascular, pulmonary and renal disease. Students in the Cardiovascular, Pulmonary and Renal Systems block are expected to use technology including medical databases to advance their medical knowledge and practice-based learning.

Digestion, Metabolism & Hormones (12 weeks)

The Digestion, Metabolism and Hormones block offers an integrated presentation of topics focusing on digestion and absorption of food (carbohydrates, lipids and protein), water, vitamins and some minerals, nutritional aspects of macronutrients and micronutrients, fuel metabolism and storage, and the role of hormones in controlling physiological and biochemical functions in humans.

The block covers:

  • Functions of key digestive tissues including salivary, stomach, intestine, pancreas, gall bladder and liver
  • Metabolic pathways in liver and adipose tissue that are important in fuel storage and mobilization and regulation of these systems
  • Pathophysiology associated with malabsorption and the digestive tissues
  • Integration of the anatomy, histology, physiology, biochemistry, pathology and pharmacology of the gastrointestinal system
  • Histology, biochemistry, physiology, pathology and pharmacology as they relate to the endocrine system
  • Normal nutritional requirements using this information to discuss the role of nutrition in metabolism and to evaluate the consequences of nutritional deficiencies

Immunity and Infection (9 weeks)

The Immunity and Infection block is a presentation of microbiology, immunology, and infectious disease as well as public health and international health issues. Topics discussed include:

  • The basic elements of innate and adaptive immune system from the cellular to the systems level
  • The mechanisms of immunity and infectious agents and their relationship to common diseases (including diseases involving multiple systems)
  • The indications for use, mechanism of action, and side/adverse effects of medications used in the treatment of immunological and infectious diseases

Students will learn to link epidemiological, socioeconomic and cultural factors to infectious diseases and normal and abnormal functioning of the immune system, and to develop clinical hypotheses by organizing and summarizing evidence of pathophysiological function for the immune system, as well as evidence of involvement of multiple systems. Issues of environment, age, gender, socioeconomic status, ethnicity and cultural distinctiveness that impact individual patients with respect to common immunological disorders and infectious processes (e.g. HIV or staph infection) also are presented.

Life Cycle (9 weeks)

The Life Cycle block focuses on the biology and medicine of human reproduction and sexuality, and normal and abnormal development throughout the life cycle. Life Cycle is designed to address reproductive anatomy, histology and physiology through the life span from conception to pregnancy, birth, infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, aging and end-of-life.  Life Cycle also presents the cancers of the male and female organs of reproduction.

Advanced Topics (7 weeks)

The Advanced Topics block addresses complex and multi-organ system disease processes with an emphasis on the integration of basic science principles as it relates to clinical practice through the study of cases. The first two weeks focuses on the principles of benign and malignant hematology with the later weeks concentrating on the oncological disease process of several organ systems. Incorporated throughout the block is the integrated and developmental presentation of sessions related to the threads.

Year III Clerkships

Transition to Clerkships (1 week)

Third-year medical students participate in a variety of educational experiences designed to prepare them to begin their clerkship curriculum. In addition to lectures on topics pertinent to patient care, students participate in simulations and performance exercises to learn and practice basic skills that will be required of them in the clerkship curriculum. Attendance at sessions and active participation is mandatory.

Intersessions (2 weeks)

Intersessions is designed as an opportunity for medical students to convene in a classroom/seminar setting to meet specific educational goals (knowledge, skills and attitudes) best addressed while students are actively involved in patient care. The Intersessions also provide an opportunity for the students to come together for collaborative and reflective time in their process of becoming a physician. Curricular formats and learning strategies vary to accommodate the variety of content and learning.

Intersessions learning goals include:

  • Utilize the clinical experiences of the clerkships to revisit the basic sciences in the prevention, diagnosis and the treatment of disease
  • Broaden student understanding of health issues across the lifespan, chronic illness and end-of-life care
  • Acquaint students with the structure and funding of the health care delivery system and the implications of this system for access, scope and quality of health care
  • Broaden student understanding of how to become a responsible and caring physician and the impact of issues related to harmful behaviors among physicians and members of the healthcare team and patients
  • Increase student awareness of the ethical, regulatory, and legal framework affecting the practice of medicine

Required Clerkships

The seven required clerkships are organized into four blocks:

  • Neurology Clerkship (3 weeks) and Psychiatry Clerkship (6 weeks) plus 3 weeks of elective time or a 3-week Surgery Subspecialty Selective 
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology Clerkship (6 weeks) and Surgery Clerkship (6 weeks)
  • Medicine Clerkship (12 weeks, with two, 4-week blocks of inpatient medicine and one, 4-week block of ambulatory medicine)
  • Pediatrics Clerkship (6 weeks) and Family and Community Medicine Clerkship (6 weeks)

Year IV Clerkships

The fourth year includes:

  • Sub-internship selective (4 weeks) in a core discipline including internal medicine, general surgery, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, emergency medicine or family medicine.
  • Emergency Medicine or Critical Care selective (4 weeks)
  • Surgery Subspecialty Selective (3 weeks) in any subspecialty (if not completed in Year 3)
  • Elective courses (24 weeks)