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An Amazing Head Start with Core Topics in Biomedical Sciences (SOMI 220)

​For Entering UC San Diego Medical Students and Pharmacy Students

(June 20 - August 2, 2024)

*Final virtual coaching meeting to occur the week of August 5

The UC San Diego School of Medicine's Office of Educational Support Services (OESS) offers a 7-week course, Core Topics in Biomedical Sciences (CTBS), to all students accepted to the School of Medicine (SOM) and Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (SSPPS). The CTBS course gives participants a head start in mastering some of the more challenging topics presented in the first-year SOM curriculum. In contrast to the prematriculation courses offered by other medical schools, CTBS is not a review of topics presented in undergraduate science courses; instead, CTBS focuses on topics that are included in the first-year SOM curriculum and models the pace and intensity of the SOM curriculum.

The pace and intensity of CTBS provide an opportunity for students to determine if their study strategies are optimal for success in medical school courses, and provides exposure to the application-style questions often used within the SOM curriculum. The current CTBS curriculum emphasizes cell signaling, neurology/neuroscience, automomic nervous system, cardiovascular and renal physiology, and immunology. The emphasis on integration and application in multiple assessment formats during CTBS encourages students to build skills that will allow them to effectively integrate and apply essential biomedical science concepts.

All students accepted into the UC San Diego SOM or SSPPS are welcome to attend (SSPPS students are encouraged to attend prior to their second year). The CTBS course is particularly recommended for students who have undergraduate majors outside of the biological sciences or who have been away from full-time study for a year or more and want to reawaken skills and strengthen their background in the biomedical sciences.

During the CTBS course, many students form study groups that stay together throughout the first year and beyond. Data from past summers indicate that the CTBS course improves student performance in first-year courses, as presented in this article published by OESS educators: CTBS program helping students succeed in medical school (PDF).

The 2023 CTBS course will be taught online via Zoom to increase accessibility to the course. All instructional content is delivered asynchronously through short videos, with all scheduled class time being either active learning, assessment, or discussion.

For a typical week, there is no class scheduled Monday to allow more flexible independent study. Tuesday and Wednesdays will be a Team-Based Learning (TBL) session from 9am-12pm PST (see below for more details). Every Thursday between 10am-12pm PST, there will be a low stakes quiz followed by discussion. Every Friday, we will have either a physician, pharmacist, or public health faculty discuss a Health Systems Science (HSS) topic followed by discussion. Optional anatomy/histology sessions will be available every Friday afternoon from 1:30-3pm PST on campus for interested students in San Diego.

Also, each student will have an academic coach who will be required to meet with their coach weekly to help set and achieve personal goals. Part of the coaching will include promotion of professional identity formation (PIF), which is the process of internalizing a profession's core values and beliefs and focuses on reflection of an ongoing developmental process that is shaped by multiple inputs. Interest in health professions PIF is growing and we are going to explore a PIF measurement tool during the course and give detailed feedback which will be incorporated into the academic coaching sessions in the latter part of CTBS. Finally, learning support will be enhanced with second-year medical students and senior pharmacy students who will serve as near-peer teachers/tutors.

Because of the pace and intensity of the course, we highly recommend that students do not try to combine CTBS with outside employment.

Team-based learning (TBL)

Team-based learning will be the pedagogical approach using the InteDashboard platform in conjunction with Zoom. Each Tuesday there will be roughly 10 challenging multiple-choice questions that will be done independently first and submitted (this is called the "individual readiness assurance test" or IRAT), then breakout rooms will be used for the teams to do the same set of questions selecting a team response (this is called the "team readiness assurance test", or TRAT. As each question is answered by the team, instant feedback will be given to the teams and they can try again if their answer is not correct. After the teams finish the TRAT, we will go over all of the questions and discuss/review together. On Wednesdays, teams will do applications exercises and answer more complex questions that may require generation of an answer. Students are welcome to use notes and other resources to answer the IRAT/TRAT and application questions.

Health Systems Science (HSS)

Health systems science (HSS) is referred to as the "third pillar" of medical education alongside biomedical science and clinical science, and is equally important for pharmacy education. HSS provides a fundamental understanding of how health care is delivered, how health care professionals work together to deliver that care, and how the health system can improve patient care. There are several domains within HSS that include: clinical informatics, health care systems, health care policy/economics, leadership, patient safety, population health, social determinants of health, systems thinking, team- based care, quality improvement, and value-based care.

The online resources available through the American Medical Association (AMA) EdHub will provide an introduction to HSS and solid foundation to engage during Friday discussions with physicians, pharmacists, nurses, and other faculty about HSS-related topics. The Aquifer case-based social determinants of health course will provide an emphasis on this very important topic through Aquifer Social Determinants of Health. There is also excellent webinar about contextual medical errors and contextualizing care Listening for What Matters: Lessons about Caring from Concealed Recordings of Medical Encounters that will be the basis of a discussion we will have with an expert in the field.

At the end of the course, a proposal for a theoretical HSS project will be submitted. For inspiration, here are some projects that have been entered into the AMA Accelerating Change in Medical Education HSS Student, Resident, and Fellow Impact Challenge (PDF). Perhaps, a CTBS project idea could be carried forward, pursued and entered as a submission in the future!


Assessment in this course will be "programmatic" in structure, meaning that there will multiple different methods of assessment (e.g., TBLs, quizzes, comprehensive final, self- reflections, HSS project proposal, participation in coaching sessions) and go beyond simply "assessment of learning". Throughout the course, the various low stakes- assessments (TBLs, quizzes) along with the class discussions should serve as a mechanism to enhance learning rather than being focused on evaluation ("assessment as learning"). You are encouraged to use the their assessment data with the assistance of their academic coach to direct and fine-tune learning to achieve personal goals ("assessment for learning"). The final exam will be comprehensive and take place on Friday 8/4/23. We expect that everyone will "pass" CTBS if fully engaged with the various course components and should see a lot of personal growth beyond expansion of biomedical science knowledge.

Students may apply online. Because the cost of the CTBS course is heavily subsidized by the School of Medicine, those attending the course are charged only a small fee to attend.

For admninistrative questions regarding CTBS course, contact Sarah Dovi

For other questions about the CTBS course, contact the CTBS course director Steve Schneid

CTBS Application