Course Descriptions


Human Anatomy

Course Coordinator: John Cooke, PhD

The faculty members bring their expertise into the classroom as teachers of gross anatomy, neuroanatomy, histology, cell biology and human genetics, including molecular, cellular, developmental and genetic concepts. They provide students with the opportunity to directly observe the normal structure of the human body at the gross and untrastructural levels and relate it to function. Faculty members introduce first-year students to clinical problem solving in which students use their understanding of cell, tissue and organ structure-function relationships to begin interpreting the signs, symptoms and course of selected human diseases and injuries.

Human Biology-Histology/Cell Biology

Course Coordinator: Connie Cardasis, PhD

The course seeks to provide a basic understanding of structural and spatial organization at the micro anatomical level and how this relates to the function of cells, tissues and organ systems. It emphasizes that the strong relationships between structure and function are "dynamic". The course provides students with the opportunity to directly observe micro- anatomical structure in the laboratory, and to consider how knowledge of normal structure and function can be applied to clinical problem solving. It is designed to give students knowledge and skills that are needed for their study of pathophysiology.

Human Biology-Physiology

Course Coordinator: Tom Honeyman, PhD& Maurice Goodman, PhD

Physiology is broadly defined as the functional mechanisms that underlie life. The faculty members draw upon their rich research expertise to relate the molecular and cellular underpinnings of human organ and whole body functions to first-year medical students. By means of lectures and small group problem-solving sessions, the normal functions and integrative nature of the human body are explored. This exploration is used as an introduction to clinical problem solving as students begin to acquire the skills of interpreting the signs, symptoms and course of the dysfunction characteristic of human disease.

Mind, Brain, Behavior I

Course Coordinator: Susan Billings-Gagliardi, PhD

Mind, Brain and Behavior 1 is first course in a longitudinal neuroscience curriculum. The goal of this first-year component is to help students understand the known relationships between (1) the structure and function of the nervous system and (2) the various behaviors that it generates (reflex, cognitive, and emotional). The emphasis is on knowledge and skills that have current or anticipated clinical utility. Topics include the organization of major CNS motor and sensory systems as well as systems serving emotion, memory, and intellect, principles underlying structure-function relationships at both the cellular and system level, and functional/clinical consequences of damage or disconnection in these systems. Students apply their knowledge to solve clinical problems in which the primary task is to localize the lesion. Information about stroke and its prevention is interwoven with basic neuroscience.

Medical Biochemistry

Course Coordinator: Frank Chlapowski, PhD

The first-year Medical Biochemistry course is designed to incorporate the fundamental aspects of biochemistry in a series of lectures, a website, clinical correlations, medical vignettes, problem-solving sessions and problem-based cases. It is the product of intensive efforts by the faculty to provide an integrative and coordinated presentation of the subject matter in biochemistry. The objective of the course is to promote student's expertise in being able to understand chemical and cellular mechanisms underlying normal and disease processes. In order to achieve these goals a large body of factual material must be presented and learned as a framework for understanding problems in human health. The modes of problem solving used for investigation of the molecular basis of disease states are emphasized whenever possible.

Physician, Patient & Society I

Course Coordinator: David Hatem, MD

The Physician, Patient and Society Course in Year 1 (PPS I) allows students the opportunity to begin to:

  • Understand the concept of patient-centered care, developing knowledge and skills for effective communication, problem solving, physical examination, and humane and ethical care of people.
  • Understand the importance of the social context of patient care, developing knowledge and skills in epidemiology, delivery of health services, and the concept of community health.
  • Reflect on their medical school experiences and their personal development as physicians, in order to address their own needs and patient needs.
  • Integrate their learning experiences in medical school, appreciating how basic science, social science, and clinical science interact to serve as the comprehensive basis of clinical medicine.

The Gene

Course Coordinator: Laurie Demmer, MD

The goal of this course is to introduce you to basic concepts on a molecular, cytogenetic, and clinical level.

  • We will begin with an introduction to the biochemistry of nucleic acids including DNA replication and repair, transcription and protein synthesis. This will lay the foundation for understanding how mutations result in disease processes. Emphasis will be placed on the molecular nature of specific genetic disorders.
  • Classic Mendelian inheritance as well as newly described complex forms of inheritance will be presented. Problem solving will include clinical as well as molecular data. We will also begin to explore the impact of genetic disease on the family and society.
  • We hope to provide a framework, which allows you to integrate the basic concepts of this fast growing and highly technical field. Understanding the basic concepts of this fast growing highly technical field. Understanding the implications of current research (i.e. the Human Genome Project, including diagnostic, prenatal, pre-symptomatic testing, genetic screening and ultimately gene therapy will be imperative for all physicians of the 21st century.

Microbiology (Basic Bacteriology)

Course Coordinator: Anthony Poteete, PhD

One of four blocks which constitute the Microbiology course, Bacteriology is presented in the first year; the other three-Virology, Pathogenic Organisms, and Infectious Disease-are presented in the second year (see the Microbiology description). Bacteriology acquaints students with the basic biology of bacteria, with particular emphasis on cellular processes and structures which are (1) determinants of pathogenicity, (2) characteristics used for detection and identification, or (3) targets of antimicrobial chemotherapy. Laboratory exercises introduce students to standard microbiological techniques, and provide direct illustrations of key principles.


Course Coordinator: Stephen Hardy, MD& Connie Cardasis, PhD

The nutrition course emphasizes the importance of nutritional assessment and counseling throughout the lifespan as a key feature of medical care. The course is divided into two blocks, a core series of lectures and case discussions in the fall semester and a series of topics, which are integrated into the subject matter of the physiology course in the spring. The goals of the course are to enable the student to recognize the core principles of biochemistry and physiology, which are essential to nutrition, and to introduce the student to nutritional assessment and counseling, common nutritional issues such as obesity, and special nutritional needs at various stages of life.


Biology of Disease (Pathology and Pathophysiology)

Course Coordinator: Mark Madison, MD& Thomas Smith, MD

This yearlong course covers the pathology and pathophysiology of human diseases. Students develop an in-depth understanding of disease by correlating underlying molecular mechanisms with structural, functional and clinical manifestations. The course begins with an introduction to general disease mechanisms at the cellular and tissue levels and then continues with an analysis of specific diseases as they affect various organ systems.


Course Coordinator: John Leong, MD

Medical Microbiology provides a foundation of knowledge of pathogenic microorganisms that is necessary for mastering the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of human infectious diseases. Students are first introduced to the basic biological processes of viruses and bacteria that are required for their viability. Then, the strategies that microbial pathogens employ to successfully infect humans and cause disease are described. Finally, students are introduced to the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of specific human infections.

Medical Pharmacology

Course Coordinator: John McCullough, PhD

The objective of this second-year course is to help students learn pharmacological principles and become familiar with commonly used classes of drugs. Although it is important to learn the language of pharmacology, i.e., drug names and classes, we also emphasize general principles that can often be applied broadly to many therapeutic agents. An understanding of these principles, such as drug absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion, and the mechanisms by which drugs produce their therapeutic effects will help you to treat the whole patient instead of a particular symptom.

The specific goals of the course are: 1) To learn the actions of important drugs and their effects on major organ systems, and 2) To understand the mechanism(s) of action of the major classes of drugs.

Physician, Patient & Society II

Course Coordinator: David Hatem, MD

The Physician, Patient & Society Course Year 2 (PPS II) continues the students' introduction to patient care and the basic sciences in the first and second years, and bridges to the direct patient care in the third year. The goals of the course are to prepare students for patient care by:

  • Refining their interviewing, physical examination, and problem-solving skills leading to the development of problem lists, assessments, and management plans;
  • Building on the students' knowledge of epidemiology, health care delivery, ethics, decision analyses, and multi-cultural issues;
  • Building on communication skills through oral and written presentations of patients and improving one's ability to give constructive feedback.

Furthering their skills of self-directed learning to prepare them for their roles in the clinical years.

Mind, Brain, Behavior II

Course Coordinator: Mai-Lan Rogoff, MD& Thomas Smith, MD

This one semester course is divided into two major sections. The first half of the course introduces the student to the general mechanisms of disease affecting the nervous system from a functional and structural perspective, and then considers the pathophysiology and clinical aspects of specific neurological syndromes and structural disorders with emphasis on clinical-pathological correlation and principles of localization. The second half of the course considers normal and abnormal human behavior from birth to old age, surveys the major psychopathological syndromes and provides an introduction to clinical psychiatry.


Internal Medicine

Course Coordinator: Eric Alper, MD

The Internal Medicine clerkship is a 12-week experience with broad objectives. Each student spends 8 weeks in the inpatient setting at one of our 5 teaching sites, and 4 weeks in a community physician's office. Through these experiences, the student will gain knowledge and understanding of the illnesses of adults of all ages and their pathophysiology. They will further develop important clinical skills such as history taking, physical examination techniques, written and oral communication, clinical reasoning, ability to generate differential diagnosis and creating diagnostic and management plans. They will appreciate the impact of illness on the patient, physician and society; health promotion; and disease prevention. They will explore ethical dilemmas, issues in geriatric medicine, and end of life issues. Students are evaluated on their clinical performance by preceptors, their performance on our OSCE, and on the National Board Internal Medicine shelf exam.


Course Coordinator: Lynn Manfred, MD

This 6-week clerkship utilizes the pediatric interview and a clinical problem-solving orientation to encourage patient/student interaction, critical thinking and preceptor/student discussion. Students become familiar with the primary care and subspecialty aspects of the field of pediatrics and the important role that the pediatrician plays in the physical and emotional development of children of all ages. Students spend three weeks as a member of a health care team in a community outpatient office and have brief experiences in urgent care, newborn nursery and patient home visits. Students also spend three weeks caring for inpatients. For the entire six weeks the students actively participate in the health care of children, allowing them to apply and refine their interviewing and clinical problem-solving skills.

Family Medicine

Course Coordinator: Frank Domino, MD

The Family Medicine Clerkship gives the student a broad exposure to both the actual and theoretical concepts of Family Medicine. The student spends 80% of their time working one-on-one with a community-based preceptor, seeing patients, and following them over the 6 weeks. This provides the student with a "real world" understanding of the role continuity plays in patient care. The other 20% of the student's time is spent on the university campus, managing the care of the virtual "McQ" family. This teaching tool is a series of patient encounters spanning 3 generations of one family as they go through pregnancy, childhood illness, adolescent issues, adult health, and disease management. Additionally, the students participate in an online program on Ambulatory Medical Ethics, and a-hands on curriculum in Evidence Based Medicine.

Obstetrics and Gynecology

Course Coordinator: Edward Peskin, MD& Kate O'Dell, MS

During this 6-week rotation, students have opportunities to participate in women's health care in both inpatient and ambulatory settings. Clinical sites vary between large tertiary referral centers and smaller community hospitals. Formal didactic and clinical sessions are interwoven to help students build on interviewing, physical examination, and diagostic and management planning skills. Experience will be enhanced both in prevention and treatment of common women's health problems. Medical knowledge will markedly increase in a variety of areas related to health needs throughout the life cycle, including family planning, prenatal care, normal and abnormal labor management, gynecologic surgery, cancer screening and treatment, care of menopausal women, and assessment and management of gyn-related pain, infection, and bleeding.


Course Coordinator: Timothy Counihan, MD& Anne Larkin, MD

During this 12-week clerkship students learn a broad base of both basic and clinical knowledge about surgery and related subjects. The clerkship provides students with a variety of learning experiences, including the traditional surgical specialties, the subspecialties, basic science and clinical lectures and some surgical techniques. Students spend two months on surgical services and one month on subspecialty services. In addition to seeing patients in the hospital, emergency rooms and clinics, students attend conferences and participate in small group discussion utilizing the case study method of teaching.


Course Coordinator: Julia Matthews, MD

During this 6-week internship students further develop interviewing, reasoning and communications skills fundamental to psychiatric diagnosis and intervention. An integrative model is stressed, emphasizing the biologic, psychodynamic, social and behavioral aspects of treatment. Students learn about the diagnosis and treatment of the common psychiatric disorders and develop an appreciation for the unique individual factors, which influence presentation, treatment response, and prognosis. Students also learn the role of psychiatrist and other mental health disciplines in the care of persons with mental illness and learn how to collaborate and when to refer.

Internal Medicine Subinternship

Course Coordinator: Nancy Liu, MD

A required elective for fourth year students who have successfully finished their third year clinical rotations, this course allows students to experience the role of a medicine intern on the inpatient medical service under direct supervision of medical residents and attendings. Duties include admission evaluation of the patient, subsequent coordination of care for that patient during hospital stay, and discharge planning. Students are expected to take overnight call with his/her assigned team, and patient load is comparable to the other interns on the team.

Neurology Clerkship

Course Coordinator: David Chad, MD

UMass students have a 4-week required clerkship in Neurology in their senior (4th) year. Students may choose to do the clerkship at one of five possible locations: UMassMemorial (University campus -- 4 positions available); UMassMemorial (Memorial campus) -- 1 position); Worcester Medical Center -- 3 positions; Lahey Clinic -- 1 position; and when necessary, it is possible to have positions at each of Milford hospital and MetroWest Medical Center. The major thrust of the clerkship is to gain a solid foundation in the neurological examination and the interpretation and significance of neurological examination findings. Much attention is devoted to clinical-anatomical correlation and refining the skills of "lesion localization." Students spend most of their clinical time on in-patient or consultation services, but there is an opportunity for exposure to some outpatient neurology. There are weekly clinical problem solving sessions with a senior faculty member that provide for both a broad and an in-depth exploration of clinical problems at all levels of the neuraxis. Students are integrated into the daily resident schedule of special seminars and teaching conferences. At the beginning of the clerkship, students are loaned an excellent monograph with case histories and discussions, and a learning guide (containing questions related to important aspects of clinical neurology reflecting the core information in the field). During the second week of the clerkship, a morning is devoted to a review of common problems in clinical neurology -- a session called "Neurology School." At the conclusion of the Clerkship, there is an OSCE followed by a multiple choice style examination. The final grade is based on the evaluations of clinical performance and the grades on the multiple-choice examination and OSCE.