Core Curriculum

Required core courses in the School of Medicine include preclerkship and clinical courses.

Integrated Scientific Curriculum

Integrated Scientific Curriculum Calendar 

Preclerkship Courses

The preclerkship curriculum at UC San Diego School of Medicine has been marked by its innovativeness, its interdisciplinary nature, and its scientific rigor. Our Integrated Scientific Curriculum builds on these themes, and focuses on the importance of combining robust scientific foundations and a humanistic, biopsychosocial approach to the practice of medicine to develop outstanding physicians and physician-scientists. The preclerkship curriculum occurs over six quarters of instruction, spans the spectrum of health and disease, and is primarily organ focused in its orientation, although material on molecular, cellular, whole organism, and population orientations is also involved. Students develop expertise in both the scientific principles of medicine and its optimal clinical practice in tandem, and do so in an environment that closely simulates the broadly integrative and intellectual environment of medicine.

The preclerkship curriculum encompasses two broad areas of organization: 
  • Human Health and Disease, which provides the bulk of the basic knowledge that is critical to develop the best practice of medicine, and 
  • Clinical Foundations, in which that knowledge is applied to increasingly complex clinical problems, and in which the competencies of medical interviewing, physical examination, clinical reasoning, and medical professionalism are developed. 

Material in both of these sequences is coordinated so that key concepts are learned, applied, practiced, and clinically integrated in an ongoing fashion starting from the first day of medical school. The curriculum stimulates active learning, and provides appropriate time for independent assignments and intellectual exploration outside of class. 

A sample schedule for the preclerkship quarters is below:

Preclerkship Quarters Schedule


Clinical clerkships

Clinical clerkships, throughout the third year, are intended to provide students with the skills to be able to successfully identify, access, interpret and apply scientific literature, to obtain both a comprehensive and directed medical history and perform a careful, accurate, complete and directed physical examination, and to competently perform common technical procedures. Students are taught to reason deductively to solve clinical problems, including those in which information is incomplete or ambiguous, to communicate effectively with patients, families, colleagues and other health care professionals, to correctly diagnose common illnesses based upon historical, physical examination and laboratory data, to recognize and incorporate into clinical decision making the important psychosocial determinants contributing to poor health, and to construct and execute a therapeutic plan. Students will learn to recognize and respond appropriately to medical situations that are immediately life-threatening, as well as to work effectively with the other members of the health care team and to relate in an effective manner to patients of different ages, gender and backgrounds.

Year 1 - Fall Quarter

School of Medicine Core (SOM C) 220
This five-week introductory course for first-year medical students covers cell biology, molecular biology, and genetics. Students will also receive an introduction to human anatomy and histology. (Prior to Fall 2018, course title was Foundations of Human Biology.)
Instructors: Crotty Alexander and faculty
SOMC 223
This three-week course covers the gastrointestinal system, with an emphasis on normal function. Related anatomy, histology, physiology, cell and molecular biology, and pharmacology will be covered. Nutrition will be covered. (Prior to Fall 2017, course title was Gastrointestinal System I.)
Instructors: Eckmann and faculty
SOMC 224A
This 15-week course provides an introduction to the practice of medicine. Techniques of patient communication and physical examination are taught, and material related to professional development introduced. Problem-based learning integrates multiple perspectives.
Instructors: Bhakta, Edi, Rifkin, Wooten and faculty

Year 1 - Winter Quarter

SOMC 224B
Prerequisite: Completion of SOMC 224A
This course builds on skills introduced in SOMC 224A. Skills and attitudes of patient communication and physical examination are practiced, and professional development material is introduced. Problem-based learning integrates multiple perspectives, and students participate in a fortnightly ambulatory apprenticeship.
Instructors: Bhakta, EdiRifkin, Wooten and faculty
SOMC 226
This three-week course covers the musculoskeletal system, and focuses on anatomy learned by dissection and reinforced with lectures by anatomists and orthopedic/sports medicine clinicians. Areas covered: upper and lower limb anatomy, head anatomy.
Instructors: Ward and faculty
SOMC 227
This five-week course during year one teaches neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, neurochemistry, neuropharmacology, principles of neurological function and dysfunction, human growth and development, and anatomy, function and dysfunction of head and neck, including eye and ear.
Instructors: Kritchevsky and faculty

Year 1 - Spring Quarter

SOMC 224C
Prerequisite: Completion of SOMC 224A and SOMC 224B or consent of instructor
In this course, students continue to learn patient communication and physical examination, and material related to professional development is introduced. Problem-based learning integrates multiple perspectives, and students participate in a fortnightly ambulatory apprenticeship.
Instructors: Bhakta, EdiRifkin, Wooten and faculty
SOMC 241
This five-week course covers concepts and principles in immunology and hematology. Related physiology, cell and molecular biology, histology, and pharmacology will be covered.
Instructors: Reid, Bui and faculty
SOMC 242
This four-week course covers important concepts in microbiology. Related physiology, cell and molecular biology, and pharmacology will be covered.
Instructors: Logan and faculty

Year 2 - Fall Quarter

SOMC 231
This two and one-half week course covers the principles of clinical oncology. Topics will include cancer biology and related epidemiology. Clinical cases will be explored, including approaches to treatment and related pharmacology. This course also covers response to injury, with a focus on general/systemic pathology.
Instructors: Pilz and faculty
SOMC 243
This one and one-half week course covers concepts and key topics in Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Medical Informatics.
Instructors: Garfein and faculty
SOMC 232
This two-week course covers rheumatoid arthritis, spondyloarthropathies, SLE, Sjogren's syndrome, inflammatory myositis, osteoarthritis, gout and CPPD disease, septic arthritis, and pharmacologic treatment. Dermatology topics emphasize the pathophysiology and recognition of infectious, autoimmune, neoplastic, genetic skin changes. (Prior to Fall 2014, course title was Musculoskeletal System II.)
Instructors: Terkeltaub and faculty
SOMC 233
Prerequisite: SOMC 223 or consent of instructor
This two-week course covers the diseases of the digestive system (gastrointestinal tract, liver, pancreas, etc) with an emphasis on its anatomy, histology, cell and molecular biology, pathology, pathophysiology, and pharmacology. (Prior to Fall 2018, course title was Gastrointestinal System II)
Instructors: Eckmann and faculty
SOMC 235
Prerequisite: SOMC 221 or consent of instructor
This three-week course continues to cover the cardiovascular system, with an emphasis on abnormal function. Related anatomy, physiology, pathology and pathophysiology, histology, cell and molecular biology, and pharmacology will be covered.
Instructors: Penny and faculty
SOMC 236A
In this 15-week course, students continue to learn patient communication and physical examination, and material related to professional development is introduced. Problem-based learning integrates multiple perspectives, and students participate in a fortnightly ambulatory apprenticeship.
Instructors: Bhakta, EdiRifkin, Wooten and faculty

Year 2 - Winter Quarter

SOMC 236B
Prerequisite: SOMC 236A or consent of instructor
In this course, students continue to learn patient communication and physical examination, and material related to professional development is introduced. Problem-based learning integrates multiple perspectives.
Instructors: Bhakta, EdiRifkin, Wooten and faculty
SOMC 237
Prerequisite: SOMC 227 or consent of instructor
This five-week course during year two covers neurological, psychiatric, ophthalmological, otolaryngological, and general head and neck principles, syndromes and disorders. Clinically relevant etiology, pathology, pathophysiology, and therapies are included.
Instructors: Kritchevsky and faculty
SOMC 238
Prerequisite: SOMC 222 or consent of instructor
This three-week course continues to cover the pulmonary system, with an emphasis on abnormal function. Related anatomy, histology, physiology, pathology, pathophysiology, cell and molecular biology, and pharmacology will be covered.
Instructors: Papamatheakis and faculty
SOMC 239
Prerequisite: SOMC 225 or consent of instructor
This two-week course continues to cover the renal system, focusing on abnormal function. Related anatomy, histology, physiology, pathology and pathophysiology, cell and molecular biology, and pharmacology will be covered.
Instructors: Rifkin and faculty

Year 2 - Spring Quarter

SOMC 240
This two-week course covers complex multi-organ system disorders of medical relevance. Related anatomy, histology, cell and molecular biology, physiology, and pharmacology will be covered. This course also includes a review of integrative cases.
Instructors: Coyne and faculty
SOMC 244
Independent study and review for the United States Medical Licensing Step 1 Exam, which is a UCSD School of Medicine requirement.
Instructors: Mandel and faculty

Year 3

Primary Care Core Clerkship Prerequisite: enrollment in the SOM, and completion of the preclinical curriculum.
Prerequisite: SOMC 223 or consent of instructor
All Quarters
The Primary Care Core Clerkship consists of a year-long preceptorship with a primary care physician and a series of interdisciplinary seminars. As a longitudinal clerkship, this course enables students to participate in the continuity of care of patients, establish a meaningful relationship with a practicing primary care clinician, and integrate all of the training from other core clerkships into an entire third-year experience.

The main objectives of the clerkship are to teach students: 1) the basic knowledge, skill, and understanding of what it is to be a primary care practitioner; 2) the diagnosis and management of common medical problems; 3) the concepts of continuity, communication, and comprehensive care; 4) the importance of compassion and empowerment; 5) the role of primary care physicians in terms of the larger medical community; and 6) knowledge of their own skills and limits, and to know when to ask for help.

Each student is assigned to a preceptor who will mentor the student for the year. Preceptors include family physicians, internists, pediatricians, and general obstetricians/ gynecologists who are either UCSD faculty or community physicians who are UCSD non-salaried volunteer faculty. Preceptor sites vary widely and include a broad range of primary care settings.

Students spend one afternoon per week, three times each month, working in their preceptor's office. Ideally, students will follow a number of the same patients or families over the course of the year. Students do not attend Primary Care 401 afternoon clinic during the eight-week Surgery 401 clerkship, but are required to attend Primary Care 401 seminars.

One afternoon each month, groups of ten students meet for seminars led by one or two faculty members. Topics covered include: primary care throughout the life cycle, cross-cultural medicine and cultural competency, outpatient office procedures, patient counseling and education, and health care systems.

Students are evaluated using a number of criteria, including preceptorship experience, seminar participation, performance on the final examination, case presentations, homework problem sets, and patient logs.
Instructors: Lynch, Ruo and faculty

Obstetrics and Gynecology Core Clerkship Prerequisite: enrollment in the SOM, and completion of the preclinical curriculum.
Prerequisite: SOMC 221 or consent of instructor
All Quarters
This clerkship is designed to provide the student with the fundamentals required for treatment of female patients by all doctors whether they be internists, surgeons, pediatricians, or public health officials. The discipline of reproductive medicine and obstetrics and gynecology spans the entire age range of womanhood and is extensively health oriented. Surgical and obstetrical techniques comprise only part of its concerns. The overriding objectives of the field are the quality and quantity of human life from its development in utero through the birth process to the preventive health care thereafter.

Student activities encompass: history taking and physical diagnosis, participation in prenatal care, delivery room activities, outpatient gynecologic practice and gynecologic surgery. The student is also exposed to the three areas of specialization in obstetrics and gynecology, i.e., reproductive endocrinology, oncology, and perinatology. For the students, the clinical activities will be centered on the Obstetrical and Gynecological Services at UCSD Medical Center, Mercy Hospital, or the Naval Hospital.

Teaching seminars cover sexual and contraceptive counseling; physiological and endocrine basis of reproduction; the spectrum of diseases peculiar to women and pregnancy; influences of medical, surgical, and psychiatric disease on the reproductive process; and influences of female biology on health and disease processes outside the reproductive tract. Social problems of family planning, population, and abortion are also considered.
Instructors: Cormano and faculty

Year 4

The Independent Study Project (ISP) has long been a cornerstone of the elective curriculum at the UCSD School of Medicine. The UCSD School of Medicine seeks to "prepare physicians who are scientifically expert, clinically astute, responsive to community problems, and compassionate toward clinical needs."