The fall semester of M1, known as the Scientific Foundations of Medicine phase, emphasizes foundational knowledge required to understand the structure, function and pathophysiology of the different organ systems.
During the Applied Medical Sciences phase, which starts in the spring semester, students study hematology and oncology, the musculoskeletal systems, gastrointestinal system, endocrine and reproduction systems. Each organ system block covers normal anatomy and physiology before delving into disease diagnosis, pathophysiology and management.
Fall Semester Courses
The Transition to Medical School course is as a comprehensive introduction to the expectations and responsibilities inherent in the medical profession. Over a two-week period, students gain essential insights into curricular requirements, faculty, teamwork dynamics, support services, and facilities.
Complementing this immersive experience is the Practice of Clinical Medicine Bootcamp, a vital component designed to instill foundational skills in doctoring for medical students. Additionally, the course includes a series of sessions on "Crucial Conversations," strategically crafted to assist students in honing crucial communication skills and fostering an understanding of bias and health disparities within the healthcare system.
The curriculum also dedicates sessions to professionalism and effective communication, ensuring a well-rounded educational experience that equips students with the multifaceted competencies expected of physicians.
The Molecular Basis of Health and Disease course is an introduction to basic biochemical and genetic concepts and terms, and clinical relevance of human biochemistry and genetics. The specific areas covered include intermediary metabolism, bioenergetics, cell biology, molecular biology, and transmission of genetic disease. Throughout this active learning course, relevant diseases and pathologies are discussed.
The Principles of Physiology Course addresses mechanisms underlying the regulation of function at the molecular, cellular and organ system level, especially those that contribute to the response to diseased states and therapeutics and find common application in clinical medicine. The course focuses on basic concepts of cell, nerve and muscle function that apply to all organ systems.
The Principles of Autonomics and Pharmacology introduces the fundamentals of drug therapy. The course highlights the basic principles of pharmacodynamics, pharmacokinetics, mechanisms of action, drug disposition, side effects and toxicities, autonomic nervous system, and the relative evaluation of drugs.
In the Infection and Immunity course, students learn about the agents of infectious disease and how the immune system evolved to defend the host against infection. The mechanisms of action of antimicrobial agents and the means by which microbes become resistant to these agents are also taught. In addition, aspects of the immune system that are not directly related to infectious diseases including hypersensitivity, autoimmunity and transplantation are presented.
The Foundations of Disease course is an introduction and review of basic mechanisms of disease. The emphasis of this course is on pathogenetic mechanisms and the importance of correlating pathologic changes with clinical, imaging, and laboratory findings. The goal of the course is to provide a foundation of knowledge that is critical for understanding the specific pathologic processes discussed in the organ system courses that follow. This short course will help consolidate and expand on a foundation of knowledge, all of which will be encountered in different forms in diseases discussed in the organ system courses.
Spring Semester Courses
The Marrow course teaches an understanding of the biologic, molecular, and pathologic basis of hematologic and oncologic conditions and the knowledge necessary to approach the diagnosis of the patient with hematologic and oncologic disease. The course also focuses on the pharmacology of drugs used to treat hematologic and neoplastic disease.
The Movement course introduces the musculoskeletal and dermatologic systems of the body by using molecular and anatomic approaches to provide the framework from which clinical manifestations, diagnostic modalities, and therapeutic strategies can be explained.
The Endocrine course teaches knowledge of normal endocrine anatomy and physiology and normal metabolism which will provide the foundational skills necessary to understand the pathophysiology and differentiate common endocrine and metabolic disorders.
The Gastrointestinal course instructs on the pathophysiologic basis of gastrointestinal and liver diseases. This task is accomplished by dividing the gastrointestinal tract into five major parts and discussing each part separately: the esophagus, the stomach, the pancreatico-biliary system, the small and large bowel, and the liver. Emphasis is on physiology, pathology and pharmacology.
The Reproduction course will provide students with knowledge of embryologic development of the genetic male and genetic female reproductive organs. Further, students will learn normal male and female reproductive anatomy and physiology. The student will then use this foundation of knowledge to guide their study of common pathologic conditions of the male and female reproductive tract.
From August to January, M2 is a continuation of the Applied Medical Sciences phase. Afterwards, students spend 6-8 dedicated weeks preparing for the NBME Step 1 exam with close guidance from a faculty adviser on effective study plans and resources.
The Cardiovascular course focuses on the function and interaction of the heart and vascular system in health and disease and integrates principles and concepts of cardiovascular physiology and pathophysiology that underlie the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease.
The Pulmonary Course integrates physiology, pathology, and pharmacology of the pulmonary system, which provides the foundation to construct differential diagnoses of common pulmonary symptoms.
The Renal course introduces physiology, pathophysiology, and clinical presentation of a broad range of kidney disorders. Pharmacology of drugs used in the treatment of disorders is also covered.
The Neuroscience course provides a firm foundation in the neurosciences to understand, recognize and differentiate common disorders and diseases of the nervous system. Topics ranging from basic neuroscience (including neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, neurochemistry, neurotransmitter functions, and systems neuroscience) to manifestations of disease affecting the nervous system, including clinical correlates of neural dysfunction and neurological diagnosis are addressed.
The Behavioral science course introduces the field of Psychiatry. The foundation provides knowledge to better understand, recognize and differentiate common mental health conditions.
At the start of the third year, students participate in the Transition to M3 course described below. During the year, students receive clinical training by rotating through the various hospitals and ambulatory services, including VCU Medical Center, Richmond Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center, Riverside Regional Medical Center and other health care facilities throughout Virginia.
This clinical experience is supplemented by didactic presentations on practice-related topics. All students participate in the following clerkships:
- Ambulatory Clerkship
- Family Medicine
- Internal Medicine
The Transition to M3 course is a comprehensive three-week course, featuring instructional sessions and simulation exercises aimed at equipping students for the challenges of the clinical setting and the academic demands of the clerkship year. Specifically designed to help students navigate the transition between the pre-clinical and clinical phase of the curriculum, this course offers students an overview of the clinical work environment, insights into interprofessional roles and relationships, and exposure to the typical responsibilities undertaken by third-year students.
M4 is a year of advanced clinical concentrations, consisting of 44 weeks of elective rotations and eight weeks of acting internships. Students are also given up to 4 weeks of dedicated time to study for the NBME Step 2 CK exam. Students also take the Transition to M4 course (described below) at the beginning of the year, and the Transition to Residency course at the end.
To best serve the needs of individual students, VCU School of Medicine offers the opportunity to select electives based on career goals. Students are required to complete one ward acting internship and one critical care acting internship, with the remaining blocks containing a combination of clinical and non-clinical electives.
Students may also opt to complete an away rotation at a different health care facility.
If you are a student at another institution and are interested in participating in an elective at VCU, please contact:
Visiting Student Coordinator
The Transition to M4 course occurs before the commencement of clinical electives and Acting Internships at the start of the fourth year of the curriculum. This course focuses on topics and skills necessary to successfully navigate the required components of the M4 year. Sessions include topics on ICU management, electrolyte emergencies, transitions of care, escalation of care, and calling consultants. As a precursor to the start of the Transition to M4 course, students will complete a summative OSCE. Successful completion of the OSCE, along with completion of all other components of the Transition to M4 course, is required prior to beginning the M4 year.
As part of their final preparations for graduation, students engage in the Transition to Residency Course, held in the concluding weeks of the M4 year. This course will prepare students for a successful intern year in their respective residency programs. Comprised of didactic lectures, workshops, information sessions, and specialty-specific bootcamps, the curriculum underscores the professional roles and responsibilities anticipated of learners in their upcoming phase of training. Additionally, the course covers sessions on personal, professional, financial, and life management strategies crucial for success as a resident physician. Completion of this course is required prior to graduation.
Many M.D. program courses span multiple years, complementing and building upon the scientific, clinical and professional knowledge students gain throughout the four years of medical school.
For more information about our longitudinal curriculum, or to contact a course director, please email the Office of Medical Education: email@example.com
The Patient, Physician and Society (PPS) curriculum fosters the development of the humanistic physician during the entire four-year program. The course strives to nurture the caring and compassion for their future patients that students bring with them to school. Topics explored include spirituality, integrative medicine, ethics, cultural competency, palliative care, health care disparities, the impact of psychological trauma on health, the physician-patient relationship, the impact of community and society on individuals’ health, and professionalism.
The Patient, Physician and Society (PPS) curriculum fosters the development of the humanistic physician over the course of all four years, striving to nurture the compassion for their future patients that students bring with them to medical school. Topics explored include:
- Integrative medicine
- Cultural competency
- Palliative care
- Health care disparities
- The impact of psychological trauma on health
- The physician-patient relationship
- The impact of community and society on individuals’ health
The Practice of Clinical Medicine (PCM) course, which occurs over the first 18 months, covers basic clinical skills such as professionalism, medical interviewing, physical examination and clinical reasoning. These skills are practiced in a small group setting and taught by a practicing attending physician and a volunteer M4 student. During M2, students have the chance to put their new knowledge to use by interacting with patients alongside a preceptor either at VCU or in the community two afternoons a month.
The Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Care (IPEC) curriculum includes required courses during M1 and M4, plus electives available during M2 and M3. Courses include:
- Foundations of Interprofessional Practice
- Interprofessional Quality Improvement and Patient Safety
- Interprofessional Communication and the Care Coordinator
- Health Care and Care Coordination
- Health Care Payment Models and Care Coordination
- Ethical and Legal Considerations in Care Coordination
- Mindfulness Practices for Health Care Professionals: Clinical Applications
- Global Health
- Interprofessional Complex Care Coordination
- Interprofessional Special Topics
The Population Health and Evidence-Based Medicine course teaches epidemiology, biostatistics, preventive medicine, public health and evidence-based medicine throughout the first three years.
A longitudinal course that runs through the first 18 months of the preclinical curriculum, Point of Care Ultrasound gives students the chance to learn bedside clinical ultrasound while they learn basic physical exam and history skills during their Practice of Clinical Medicine course. Each session has a standardized patient to scan, and pathologies will be discussed or displayed on the simulators.
Diagnostic Reasoning (DR) is an 18-month longitudinal course that has two distinct but related purposes:
- Prepare for M3 by honing critical thinking and diagnostic skills and building differential diagnosis capabilities.
- Prepare for the Step 1 examination through the use of USMLE-style multiple choice questions.
Developed using the core competencies as defined by the American Geriatrics Society and the Association of American Medical Colleges, this four-year curriculum includes interactive case-based sessions, patient and caregiver panels and online case simulation. By the end of M4, students will be able to evaluate older patients that exhibit acute and chronic illness in a manner consistent with the patients’ prognosis, values and goals. The management of older patients will be informed by a core-defined knowledge of age-related changes in human biology and pharmacology, as well as systems of care.
Students also learn how to manage common geriatric syndromes and conditions, including (but not limited to):
- Pre- and post-operative complications
- Social isolation
- Failure to thrive
- Discharge planning
- Elder abuse
This longitudinal exercise, from January of M1 to January of M2, incorporates anatomical, radiological, pathological and other clinical observations into an integrated assessment of a cadaver’s anatomy and suspected medical problems. To enhance this cumulative, longitudinal exercise, students can excise suspected pathological tissues and submit them to the Department of Pathology. Daily logs of anatomical observations and findings with potential clinical relevance aid with documentation and tabulation of information, especially when multiple casualty-related symptoms are present. The final presentation is a self-directed group exercise in which each dissection table formally presents their dissection findings that identifies at least one significant clinical condition (not necessarily the cause of death) that the patient experienced when they were alive. This presentation is in a Grand Rounds style, presented to fellow students and faculty and judged and scored by a team of anatomy and clinical faculty.