Medical School Curriculum

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Medical School Curriculum

At the UVA School of Medicine, you will be engaged and challenged from the outset by the system-based "Next Generation" Cells to Society curriculum. "NxGen" combines the practice and science of medicine to educate and train physicians to provide patient-centered care, practice evidence-based medicine and engage in lifelong learning.

The "Next Generation" curriculum eschews the traditional split of basic and clinical sciences and instead employs an integrated system-based learning experience throughout the four year MD program. You will be exposed to a balance of active and experiential activities, clinical cases and patients, problem-based learning, small group and team-based experiences, hands-on laboratories, self-directed learning, lectures and hospital and community-based clinical experiences.

The educational experiences and assessments are all competency based. We recognize the diversity of interests in our student body and offer an MD/MBA, MD/PhD (MSTP), several tracks of MD/MPH and an MD/MS in Clinical Research through our dual degree programs. You can also take courses or get an additional degree through one of the other graduate programs at the University. We have an 18 month pre-clerkship phase, which integrates clinical performance development and service learning foundations and integrated organ systems. The clerkship phase is devoted to clinical training in the hospitals and clinics. Finally, the post-clerkship phase provides opportunities for you to engage in advanced clinical skills training and tailor your educational experience to your own interests and career aspirations. International opportunities and travel stipends are available through the Center For Global Health and other programs. This offers you the opportunity to immerse yourself in another culture, learn other languages and pursue clinical or research interests worldwide.

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Pre-clerkship Period ("First One and One-half Years"): The first year begins with Cells to Society - an innovative educational experience designed to present first year students with an integrative approach to clinical medicine. "Cells to Society" focuses on and connects the patient to all other aspects of the Foundations of Medicine curriculum. The three-day experience is structured around one disease process and guides first years in investigating the disease's cellular and societal dimensions. Students discover how the care of the patient raises questions in multiple domains in addition to clinical medicine. "Cells to Society" is followed by Foundations of Medicine and Cells, Tissues and Mechanisms of Disease.  These include foundational elements of human behavior, the doctor/patient relationship, decision sciences, and principles of biochemistry, genetics, histology, physiology, anatomy,  general pathology, general pharmacology, and epidemiology.  

Students then move to the Integrated Organ Systems: Microbes and the Immune System; Musculoskeletal and Integument; Gastrointestinal; Mind, Brain and Behavior; Renal; Cardiovascular; Pulmonary; Endocrine/Reproductive, and Hematology. Each system integrates core science (e.g., anatomy, histology, physiology, pharmacology, and pathology) with clinical skills ranging from physical examination to addressing cultural and social issues, including public health policy.

The Clinical Performance Development (CPD) experience runs concurrently with and is fully integrated into each course and organ system. CPD-1 consists of clinical case studies which students solve in small group tutorials led by physicians. Students also work on a one-to-one basis with physicians to develop their skills in taking medical histories and conducting physical exams. Students work in the Medical Simulation Center, with standardized patients, and with patients from University Hospital. Clinical Performance Development is continuous through the Clerkship and Elective time. These are called CPD-2 and CPD-3 respectively and continue the clinical skills development of medical students. CPD also has a developmental assessment program throughout medical school designed to ensure that students are developing their clinical skills appropriately and have achieved a level appropriate for success on the USMLE-2CS and transition to post-graduate training.

The Social Issues in Medicine/Exploratory experience also runs concurrently with and is fully integrated into each system. SIM helps students recognize and analyze the interrelationships between socio-cultural environments and the occurrence, prevention, and treatment of disease. Students identify and nurture values that characterize a professional and humanistic practice of medicine and an ethic of service.

The Clerkship Period: Midway through the second year student engage in more advanced clinical training. Students complete clerkships in medicine, surgery, pediatrics, family medicine, geriatric medicine, peri-operative (anesthesia) and emergency medicine, psychiatry, and obstetrics and gynecology. There is extensive direct contact with patients, and students work with a well-balanced patient population, which includes primary, secondary, and tertiary care.

Teaching is related to the patient on rounds and in small tutorial seminars, lectures and group discussions. Emphasis is given to the principles of prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and the continuing integration of clinical medicine with medical sciences and the psychological factors that influence health.

Students also work in small groups and rotate among many clinical services. Students gain practical experience under supervision in the wards and outpatient clinics of the University of Virginia hospitals, Bon Secours Hospital in Richmond, the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Salem, the Western State Hospital, and INOVA Fairfax Hospital in Northern Virginia. The teaching programs at the affiliated hospitals allow students to observe the practice of medicine in multiple settings and gain exposure to a somewhat different spectrum of illnesses than that seen at the University of Virginia. During their third year, students may spend as much as 16 weeks away from Charlottesville in affiliated clerkship locations.

The Post-clerkship Period of Advanced Clinical Training: Toward the end of the third year and in the fourth year, students engage in an extensive Electives program that allows students to pursue their own interests. Under the guidance of a faculty advisor, students choose clinical rotations, basic science and humanities courses and research activities. Medical students are required to complete at least one Advanced Clinical Elective during their fourth year. Clinical rotations are available at sites in Salem, Roanoke, Lynchburg, Fairfax, and Charlottesville. Programs are tailored to meet individual interests and needs, including a selection of programs in other domestic and foreign settings in appropriate community medicine programs, or in other activities of suitable educational merit.

In sum, students engage in a continuum of science, clinical skills, and professionalism experiences throughout the Systems and Clinical Performance Development experiences, the clerkships, and the post-clerkship period of advanced clinical training. Students are presented within and across each period with multiple examples of knowledge, skills, professionalism, and decision-making.