Basic Science Curriculum

The goal of the basic science curriculum is to provide a broad-based foundation of knowledge on which students can build their understanding of the complex biological systems in clinical science as well as pathways to improve our understanding of medical science.  During the first 2 years the basic science curriculum is organized by organ system (e.g., Cardio-Respiratory, Renal Biology) with 14 curricular Threads basic to medicine (e.g., Physiology, Anatomy/Embryology, Cell Biology, Biostatistics/Epidemiology, Ethics) integrated across the courses. Normal cell and organ system function is the focus in year 1 while the year 2 curriculum emphasizes abnormal function while reinforcing the content from year 1.  Weekly themes guide the organization of each course (e.g., “The Heart as a Pump” during the year 1 Cardio-Respiratory Course), provide a focus for student learning and an opportunity to integrate when possible the basic science, clinical and research curriculum components.  A Problem-Based Learning (PBL) case provides the core for each week’s learning objectives.  Application of knowledge to problem sets and cases is emphasized during the week’s interactive seminars that enrich the understanding of core concepts related to the theme of the week.

Why this approach?

The approach to learning basic science is based on adult learning principles where students take primary responsibility for their learning and the learning of their colleagues.  PBL and interactive, problem solving seminars are designed to help students develop extensive skills in self-directed learning both independently and in teams, skills that are essential for excellent physicians and successful researchers.  The CCLCM competency-based assessment system reinforces these skills by helping students learn to accurately assess their own strengths and weaknesses and create learning plans for themselves.

How is the basic science curriculum structured?

During years 1 and 2 there are 14 hours of scheduled basic science curriculum time each week, 6 hours devoted to PBL and 8 hours devoted to labs, seminars, and problem sets.  In year 1 an additional 7 hours is devoted to clinical and research curriculum topics which are integrated as much as possible with the basic science curriculum, in year 2 there is an additional 11 hours which includes an added clinical experience.  Most afternoons and all day Thursday are free for students to review and prepare educational materials, explore topics in more detail, work towards a Master’s Degree, and/or engage in extra-curricular activities.

Basic Science concepts continue to be emphasized in years 3-5 during the clinical rotations, research, and the optional Area of Concentration (AoC).  Students can use 8-12 weeks of clinical elective time to integrate basic and clinical science learning objectives while focusing on a specific area of medicine that is of interest to them.