The program has several unique aspects of the curriculum designed to integrate PSTP education through courses such as the Professional Development 1 (formerly Molecular Medicine), the Research Basis of Medical Knowledge, Professional Development 2, Work in Progress Seminars, and ethics workshops. PSTP students begin training to become physician-scientists from the very first week, and are well advised about possible courses and research opportunities. Courses within the medical school follow an innovative problem-based learning (PBL) curriculum, which has become a model for medical education programs across the country.
Summer Research Prior to Matriculation
Incoming students are required to spend the summer before medical school begins in a laboratory of their choice. This affords many benefits, including meeting potential advisors and department members and establishing a routine prior to the start of medical school. Every effort is made to ensure a meaningful experience—the program will provide information on the many available labs, organize meetings with potential advisors, and help coordinate housing and other arrangements.
To help students further define their research interest, during the first summer, our Professional Development 1 Course (formerly Molecular Medicine) offers a broad cross-section of graduate programs and faculty to interact with the incoming class. Each week, current biomedical problems are examined from the unique perspectives of a variety of disciplines.
First and Second Years
During the first and second years of medical school, PSTP students enjoy a weekly seminar course titled Research Basis of Medical Knowledge, which provides a bridge between medical school course work and the research breakthroughs detailed in the basic sciences blocks. This class provides a forum for PSTP and MSTP students to present and review scientific literature among peers, guided by expert faculty. In this manner, laboratory research may be pre-determined and scientific thought processes well established.
From the first day of medical school, students participate in the Patient/Doctor Relationship Block, which emphasizes patient interviewing, behavioral medicine, and public health policy. During the first year of medical school, multi-disciplinary courses incorporate the major aspects of anatomy, embryology, biochemistry, molecular biology, microbiology, immunology, and the fundamental principles of pathology and pharmacology. A clinical and technical skills course is initiated toward the end of the first year and continues through much of the second year. In the spring of the first year, the summer lab rotation is selected with the assistance of the program director, the career advisor, and other students.
Preparation for Step I of United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), taken in the spring after the second year, tends to dominate the second quarter of medical school. Several fantastic resources are available to help the students. The Integrated Case Studies course, which emphasizes data acquisition, problem solving, and communication skills, precedes the exam and is taught exclusively in a small group setting to foster discussion about the clinical cases. The discussion about clinical cases helps students anticipate board questions, which currently are presented in a case-based format. In addition, the academic coordinator at the medical school helps with specific advice, reading materials, mock exams, practice questions, and more.
During the research training, if students' interests evolve, they may elect to apply to our combined degree program, the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP). Parallel features of the program permit efficient transfer of credit.
Third and Fourth Years
The third and fourth years of medical school include 92 weeks of required clerkships. Elective rotations may include additional research or clinical experiences.
All of the core clinical clerkships required for licensure and graduation are completed during the third year of medical school and all elective rotations are completed during early part of the fourth year.
PSTP Example Curriculum
Given the breadth of research and clinical programs available in the PSTP, it is impossible to define a single path to careers in academic medicine. Nevertheless, the following timeline is an example of the efficiency gained by a well-integrated program.