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Undergraduate Medical Student Curriculum


Student Outcomes/Activities

The MD curriculum is divided into four phases:

Phase 1:  Foundations of Medicine (18 months)

Following a week-long shadowing experience, known as “Week on the Wards,” students begin a 4-month “Healthy Human” module to study healthy human physiology.  During this time, students begin their clinical skills training, meeting twice a week with their small group and small group leader – forming a close relationship with classmates and their faculty mentor early on.  Small group discussions about professionalism, ethics, communication, cultural competency, and other “How to be a Doctor” skills add to the “whole person approach” to medical education.

Using those new skills, students begin seeing real patients in an outpatient clinic in their fifth month of medical school.  Reporting for service one afternoon every other week for 12-months, first-year medical students are able to learn, hands-on, from a healthcare team – and their patients – in a longitudinal experience.

At this same time, students begin studying human disease in systems-based blocks for the duration of the Foundations Phase.   Anatomy lab also takes place during this first phase.   Each of 24 dissection tables is equipped with a computer to instantly access magnetic resonance and other images, study guides, lecture notes, and other electronic references.

Grading is Pass/Fail for the first 18 months of the curriculum.

Finishing halfway through the second year, students are given two months of study time for Step 1 of the United States Medical Licensing Exam.

Phase 2:  Applications of Medical Sciences (12 months)

Providing students with core knowledge of the basic clinical medical and surgical fields, each student will complete required hospital rotations in Surgery, Medicine, Pediatrics, Psychiatry, Neurology, Obstetrics & Gynecology, and Radiology, as well as outpatient rotations in Adult & Pediatric Primary Care, Dermatology, Urology, Ophthalmology, Orthopedic Surgery, Otolaryngology, and Palliative Care.

Students complete these rotations at Emory and Emory-affiliated healthcare facilities throughout the Atlanta area, including:

Grady Memorial Hospital

Emory University Hospital

Emory University Hospital Midtown

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Hughes Spalding

Wesley Woods Center and Geriatric Care Hospital

Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center

The Emory Clinic (multiple sites around Atlanta)

Phase 3:  Discovery (5 months)

This phase is a structured time for students to conduct a hypothesis-driven research project under the direction of a faculty member.   While the Discovery project must be a scientific inquiry based in Medicine, students are able combine their interests in other areas, such as creative writing, public health, community development, education, or health policy, into their project.   Many students are also able to include an international experience in their Discovery project.  This is a critical opportunity for students to renew their creative energies and explore a new facet of medicine under the tutelage of an Emory faculty member.

During Discovery, medical students will work virtually full time on their projects with no other commitments except occasional seminars or workshops relevant to their work.  With only one required course held during this time (a special course addressing topics relevant to Discovery including reading the literature, writing and publishing papers, research ethics, and the IRB), students are also able to spend time in clinic to maintain and develop their clinical skills.

Phase 4:  Translation of Medical Sciences (9 months)

This phase prepares each individual for the transition to physician.  Required senior rotations include Emergency Medicine, Critical Care (ICU), and a sub-internship in Surgery, Medicine or Pediatrics; there is sufficient time for electives or away-rotations during this year.  The Translation Phase concludes with a required month-long Capstone course that offers carefully designed lectures, workshops, panel discussions, and exercises which equip the soon-to-be-graduate with the practical skills and information that will be crucial to their success as residents.

A simplified four-year calendar for the class is illustrated below:

4 year calendar

Clinical Training

Students learn clinical skills in a wide variety of clinical environments.  First, students learn basic communication skills with their Small Groups.  Students take histories and conduct physical examinations on trained standardized patients in one of 16 clinical exam rooms; during this initial process, students are carefully observed and tutored by practicing physicians.  Video cameras record on-going efforts and enable critical learning and valuable faculty feedback to students as they work to progressively improve their skills throughout the four years of medical education.  

Within the first few months of the first year of Foundations, students are ready to begin seeing patients in a longitudinal Outpatient Experience (OPEX).  This 12-month required experience allows students to develop a relationship with a clinical preceptor, a multidisciplinary clinical team, and with a variety of patients. 

An unprecedented number of patient simulators are located in the School of Medicine’s Center for Experiential Learning.  These enable students to acquire and hone technical skills such as suturing, resuscitation, endotracheal intubation, basic life support, IV placement, and delivering a baby.  The Center is also used to simulate patient care in nearly any clinical setting, giving students an opportunity to virtually experience real-life situations such as team resuscitation, emergency obstetric care, and even large-scale disasters.  Team-training exercises are incorporated throughout the curriculum as a way for medical students to learn to work together with each other and with other members of the healthcare team, such as nurses, advanced practice nurses, physician assistants, physical therapists, and respiratory therapists.  Team management skills will be increasingly important in real-world delivery of healthcare in the U.S. and elsewhere. 

With over 3,000 patient beds in more than half a dozen hospitals, Emory medical students serve many different patient populations in many different settings.  Our students learn not only clinical exam methods and cutting-edge science, but also seek to understand the socio-cultural complexities and influences that affect the health of the individual.

Societies and Small Group Learning

An integral part of the new curriculum involves our Society System.  There are four Societies (named after four historic physicians) with four experienced clinician-educators (Small Group Advisors) in each Society; thus, each medical school class has 16 practicing physicians who are dedicated clinical teachers.  At Orientation, every student is assigned to a Society and a Small Group Advisor who stays with the student throughout their medical education; it is the Small Group Advisor who eventually hoods the student at Commencement exercises.

Meeting twice a week with their Small Group, students quickly form close relationships with classmates and faculty.  The Small Group Advisor instructs students in professionalism and the art of patient care, patient-physician communication skills, and the principles of physical examination and diagnostic thinking.  Small group instruction also covers many other critical topics, including peer-to-peer communication, medical ethics, preventive medicine, and personal wellness.  Problem-based learning is also conducted in the Small Group format, encouraging students to work together and teach each other.

The curriculum is possible due to the completion of the James B Williams Emory University School of Medicine - Medical Education Building. This accomplishment is a cause for much excitement and celebration by the faculty, staff, and students in the School of Medicine, and a landmark event for Emory University. This $60 million building, with 162,000 square feet of space, is the first building built specifically for medical education in the history of the school and is one of the finest medical education facilities in the United States. This new building contains state-of-the art facilities including:

  • Three 160-person classrooms
  • Four forty-person classrooms with faculty offices to serve the needs of the new Societies system
  • Nineteen small-group rooms
  • A four-room Simulation Suite
  • A sixteen-room Objective Structured Clinical Exam (OSCE) Suite
  • A cadaveric and fresh tissue dissection space with computer access at each dissection table, lockers, and laundry facilities
  • Two computer/teaching laboratories
  • A student lounge, with café and coffee bar
  • Showers, for those who commute by run/bike or after midday exercise
  • Administrative space for the dean's office

The building was planned and built with the new curriculum in mind. It serves as a home for medical students, but also provides space that will allow for bringing students from the School of Nursing, Physical Therapy Program, Medical Imaging Program, Genetic Counseling Program and Physician's Assistant Program together with medical students, so that health sciences students can learn and train together, thereby training as in the "real" world of team-based health care. Furthermore, the building is designed to facilitate student/faculty/resident interaction via small group teaching and informal interactions as faculty utilize the simulation lab and the fresh tissue space.

At the heart of any medical school curriculum are excellent and committed faculty, residents and fellows who have time to teach and who are both appreciated and rewarded for their abilities as teachers and mentors. The new curriculum includes on-going faculty and house staff development workshops that will enhance teaching, mentoring, and assessment skills.

The momentum that develops from the implementation of the proposed curriculum and the opening of our medical education building assures that teaching will continue to be highly regarded and an honored equivalent to the other missions of the school. This enables the Emory University School of Medicine to produce the best physicians possible for the changing times - women and men who are prepared to become the future leaders of American medicine.

The MD Curriculum: Courses and Clerkships

S/U designates those courses graded on a Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory basis.

LG designates those courses graded on a letter grade basis.

Foundation of Medicine (18 months)

Application Phase (12 Months)

Course # Phase Course Name Credit/Grading
MD 505 Foundation: Prologue I Healthy Human 2 Credit Hours S/U
MD 508 Foundation: Human Development 1 Credit Hour S/U
MD 510 Foundation: Embryos, Tissues and Cells 3 Credit Hours S/U
MD 515 Foundation: Neural Function 2 Credit Hours S/U
MD 520 Foundation: Exercise and Movement 2 Credit Hours S/U
MD 525 Foundation: Nutrition and Metabolism 2 Credit Hours S/U
MD 530 Foundation: Endocrine Control 1 Credit Hour S/U
MD 535 Foundation: Genetics and Evolution 2 Credit Hours S/U
MD 540 Foundation: Aging and Dying 1 Credit Hour S/U
MD 545 Foundation: Prologue II Human Disease 4 Credit Hours S/U
MD 548 Foundation: Becoming a Doctor I 3 Credit Hours S/U
MD 550 Foundation: Skin, Bones, Muscles, and Joints 4 Credit Hours S/U
MD 555 Foundation: Pulmonary 5 Credit Hours S/U
MD 560 Foundation: Cardiovascular 5 Credit Hours S/U
MD 565 Foundation: Gastrointestinal 4 Credit Hours S/U
MD 570 Foundation: Renal & Genitourinary 4 Credit Hours S/U
MD 575 Foundation: Endocrine/Reproductive Health 5 Credit Hours S/U
MD 578 Foundation: Becoming a Doctor II 3 Credit Hours S/U
MD 605 Foundation: Hematology 3 Credit Hours S/U
MD 610 Foundation: Neuroscience I 4 Credit Hours S/U
MD 615 Foundation: Neuroscience II 5 Credit Hours S/U
MD 620 Foundation: Summation Human Disease 2 Credit Hours S/U
MD 625 Foundation: Elective 2 Credit Hours S/U
MD 630 Foundation: Review of Human Disease 3 Credit Hours S/U
MD 635 Foundation: Review and Self Study for Step 1 4 Credit Hours S/U
MD 638 Foundation: Becoming a Doctor III 3 Credit Hours S/U
Total 79 hours
Course # Phase Course Name Credit/Grading
MD 705 Application: Adult Primary Care 9 Credit Hours: LG
MD 706 Application: Pediatric Primary Care 3 Credit Hours: LG
MD 710 Application: Internal Medicine 8 Credit Hours: LG
MD 715 Application: Neurology 4 Credit Hours: LG
MD 720 Application: Obstetrics/Gynecology 6 Credit Hours: LG
MD 725 Application: Pediatrics 4 Credit Hours: LG
MD 730 Application: Psychiatry 6 Credit Hours: LG
MD 735 Application: Surgery 7 Credit Hours: LG
MD 740 Application: Anesthesiology 1 Credit Hour: LG
MD 745 Application: Radiology 2 Credit Hours: LG
MD 748 Application: Becoming a Doctor IV 2 Credit Hours: LG
Total 52 hours

Discovery Phase (Five Months)

(Can be taken 4 months and 1 month later in the year or 5 months straight)

Course # Phase Course Name Credit/Grading
MD 800 Discovery Phase  20 Credit Hours: LG

*Students taking an extra year may be granted an exception from the five month phase.

Translations Phase  (Nine Months)

Course # Phase Course Name Credit/Grading
MD 905 Translation: Senior Medicine Sub-Internship * 4 Credit Hours: LG
MD 906 Translation: Senior Surgery Sub-Internship * 4 Credit Hours: LG
MD 907 Translation: Senior Pediatric Sub-Internship* 4 Credit Hours: LG
******* Translation:

* Choice of 1 Sub-Internship


MD 910 Translation: Critical Care 4 Credit Hours: LG
MD 915 Translation: Emergency Medicine 4 Credit Hours: LG
MD 920 Translation: Elective I, II, III 12 Credit Hours: S/U
MD 940 Translation: Capstone 4 Credit Hours: S/U
Total 28 Hours

Elective Opportunities

Elective opportunities are included in the Foundation and Translation Phases of the curriculum. Electives cover a wide spectrum of opportunities (clinical work, lecture and laboratory courses, directed study, seminars, research, etc.).

Seniors interested in applying to fourth year electives at away schools should contact the Grady Office of Clinical Education OMESA Welcome Center, 404-778-1372 or the Associate Director of Registration and Student Affairs, Mary Kaye Garcia or Matthew Scott, Assistant Director of Clinical Student Affairs  for information on how to register in VSAS (Visiting Students Application System). With prior approval through the Associate Dean of Clinical Education or his designee, a portion of the elective time may be spent in other medical centers in this country or abroad. Grading of all elective courses is Satisfactory/ Unsatisfactory.