Preclerkship Phase

This curriculum phase of the study is defined as the first 18-months of medical school with a focus on the eight basic sciences core courses, Doctor & Patient/Societies course, and the Clinical Reasoning course, including all longitudinal curriculum sessions intertwined throughout the core courses.  

  • Foundations: The six-week Foundations block fosters the development of skills in evidence-based decision making, self-directed learning, communication, and professionalism, while also addressing medical-based science topics including cell biology, genetics, embryology, biochemistry, histology, pathology, the immune system, microbiology, pharmacology, and biostatistics.
  • Musculoskeletal System: The six-week 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; and 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. In addition, the Musculoskeletal System block covers most aspects of skin required for USMLE Step 1, including normal structure and function, as well as common skin lesions. Finally, because many musculoskeletal diseases require chronic care, material in the block addresses issues of health care delivery for disability and chronic care.

  • Nervous System: The nine-week Nervous System block is a comprehensive overview of general principles in neuroscience, neuropathology, neurology, neuropharmacology, psychiatry, and social/behavioral sciences. 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 central nervous system, head, and neck. The course also introduces concepts of rehabilitation, nutrition, exercise, and ethical scenarios in cases of terminal genetic diseases, and the use of narcotics.

  • Cardiovascular, Pulmonary, & Renal Systems: The 11-week 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: The nine-week 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 the 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.
  • Personalized Active Learning (PAL):  The PAL four-week graduation requirement is designed to assist UACOM-T students in coordinating an experience to enhance their medical knowledge in an area of particular interest during the summer between their first and second year of medical school.  Students have a variety of pre-approved options that satisfy this graduation requirement including:
    • Global Health Distinction Track Field Experience
    • Medical Student Research Program (MSRP)
    • Rural Health Professions Program
    • Remediation of a Course
    • MD/Ph.D. Summer Rotations

Students may also participate in a number of options not considered pre-approved with the guidance of their House Dean and the PAL Director.  Examples of options not considered pre-approved is ongoing research, ongoing volunteer experience with a scholarly project, medical mission trip/volunteer experience not through UACOM-T that has a research focus, teaching experience, development of a new course/curriculum, etc.  Each PAL plan must account for at least 160-hours over the course of the summer.  The culmination of each student PAL plan will be a manuscript and can be written in a variety of formats including personal reflection essays where students will reflect on their summer experiences, to scientific write-ups such as a case report, letter to the editor, or original research.

  • Life Cycle: The seven-week 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.

  • Immunity and Infection: The eight-week 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.

  • Advanced Topics: The three-week Hematology block focuses on benign and malignant hematologic disorders, oncologic pharmacology, hemostasis, and transfusion medicine. The block emphasizes the integration of systemic pathology with clinical practice.

  • Basic Sciences Capstone: This six-week course is a comprehensive review of the basic sciences curriculum serving as a culminating and integrative experience to prepare students for the USMLE Step 1 exam and the clerkships.

Longitudinal Curriculum: 

  • Doctor & Patient / Societies:  The Doctor and Patient block (including the Societies Program) is an integrated program initiated in 2006 to teach clinical and professional skills and to provide longitudinal clinical mentoring for the students at the College of Medicine. The Societies Program has been developed to enhance the medical school experience in the following ways:

    • Early instruction, from the very first day, in the development of fundamental clinical skills including communication, taking a medical history, the physical examination of patients, and clinical thinking
    • Early introduction to what it means to be a medical professional and the importance of professionalism in the practice of medicine
    • Provision of an ongoing support system that emphasizes both peer support and the support of dedicated medical school faculty
  • Clinical Reasoning: The Clinical Reasoning course is longitudinal and runs throughout the pre-clerkship curriculum during the first 18-months of medical school. It is designed to complement the Blocks, the Doctor and Patient Course, and the Societies Program. Students meet for two hours every week with their Clinical Reasoning facilitator to practice the basic principles of clinical reasoning and prepare themselves for their clinical clerkships. The Clinical Reasoning course uses active learning to emphasize higher-level thinking and support independent thought by the students.

  • Pathways of Health and Medicine: This curriculum runs parallel to the blocks during the first 18-months of medical school. The intent of this curriculum is to provide longitudinal behavioral, medical humanities, and social sciences curricula, for the medical education program to ensure greater alignment between biomedical science training and the preparation of future physicians required for meeting broader social expectations.


Melinda Dávila
Assistant Director, Pre-clerkship Education