The Boston University School of Medicine has a long, proud history of integrating the values of the medical school; diversity, commitment to the study and practice of medicine, research, advocacy and social justice into the curriculum. Starting with the first week of medical school, students begin to learn about Boston neighborhoods, demographics about their patients, the health disparities that may exist, and the resources available to their patients and them when providing clinical care. The mission of service is fundamental to our institutional identity and this has been the case since the founding of our programs.
During the foundational science phase of the curriculum, students learn scientific principles through the study of sciences such as biochemistry, histology, physiology and the principles of doctoring. In our two-year doctoring curriculum, students are taught communication skills, physical diagnosis, and critical thinking through Introduction to Clinical Medicine and the Integrated Problems Seminar.
Our Clinical Skills Center is also an integral part of each student’s evolution into a clinician. In this center, students work with faculty to learn physical exam skills, working with standardized patients for skills development and assessment throughout the medical school curriculum. These structured encounters allow students to receive feedback from faculty and standardized patients and prepares students for their USMLE Step 2 clinical skills examination.
Our faculty are also supported by our educational media department, allowing BUSM to utilize state-of-the-art educational technology in support of active learning. The technology also facilitates faculty development and assessment of the effectiveness of our educational programs.
Our curriculum is built on a model of continuous curricular innovation and improvement. The experience evolves continuously to the changing needs of the future physician and health scientist. Quality improvement is integrated throughout the four years, and new topic areas are added in response to changes in science and in society. The faculty continue create and expand elective experiences in areas such as global health, advocacy, medical education, and across multiple clinical specialties.
BUSM First Year Curriculum
The first year curriculum includes early clinical experience but is focused largely on the foundational sciences: Gross Anatomy, Histology, Human Behavior in Medicine, Biochemistry, Physiology, Genetics, Neuroscience, Endocrinology, and Immunology. The emphasis is on normal structure and function—normal anatomy and physiology, but clinical content is integrated into all of these courses, including medical imaging in anatomy, and case-based discussions in lectures and small groups. Many of the basic scientific principles introduced in these foundational science courses are revisited in the clerkship curriculum during the 3rd and 4th years
In Introduction to Clinical Medicine, students begin with interviewing patients in groups, and progress to learning physical exam skills and having individual sessions where they practice interviewing and physical exam skills under the direct supervision of attending physicians.
The Office of Enrichment in Academic Affairs works with students to provide non-graded experiences that enhance learning outside of the required curriculum. Students can choose from a variety of opportunities including experiences like the Outreach Van, Healthcare for the Homeless, Healer’s Art, Introduction to Surgery to name a few. Please see Extracurricular Enrichment Opportunities for the complete list.
The Office of Enrichment also works with interested students to plan their summer after the first year, offering opportunities in clinical medicine, bench science, and clinical research.
The Global Health program offers clinical, public health, research, and culture/language immersion experiences, broadening students’ perspective on health and human illness in diverse, societies and far-flung parts of the world. These opportunities begin after the first year and continue throughout medical school—approximately 35% of 4th year students participate in a Global Health elective.
BUSM Second Year Curriculum
The 2nd year curriculum is based in a year-long, integrated, organ system-based course called Disease and Therapy (DRx). Introduction to Clinical Medicine 2 and Integrated Problems 2 make-up the remainder of the structure curriculum time. DRx brings foundational science and clinical faculty together to teach pathophysiology and disease management using case-based discussions and workshops with clinical faculty, as well as discussions with patients.
BUSM Third and Fourth Year Curriculum
The third year curriculum immerses students in core clinical experiences in all the disciplines of modern medicine, including both ambulatory and inpatient settings. Clinical training is organized around a progressive increased in responsibility as experience and skills grow. Students rapidly develop proficiency in history taking, physical exam, clinical assessment, use of laboratory testing and imaging, and case presentation. Each clerkship provides students with learning objectives focused on developing medical knowledge, clinical and procedural skills, and an understanding of the major challenges faced in that field. Students work with residents and attending physicians and participate in educational sessions focused on the learning needs of students, in addition to joining the major teaching conferences of each clinical discipline.
During the fourth year, students complete one-or-more sub-internships where they take on the role of an intern, but with a reduced patient load and additional supervision and support from the attending physician. This experience eases the transition to postgraduate training. In addition, students choose from over 100 elective experiences and work closely with faculty to prepare for internship and residency.
Our Teaching Sites
Boston Medical Center is the primary teaching hospital for the School of Medicine and was created by the formal merger of Boston City Hospital and Boston University Medical Center Hospital (BUMCH) in 1996. BCH was founded in 1864, and BUMCH in 1855. It is the largest trauma center in New England, the busiest Emergency Department in the Northeast, and the largest safety net hospital in the region. BMC also has a large ambulatory teaching practice, staffed by students, residents, and faculty, and is also a major tertiary care referral center.
The BMC mission is “Exceptional Care without Exception” and we live that mission in the care of our underserved patients, 30% of whom do not speak English as their primary language. Medical students see the comprehensive care of our patients aided by our unique ancillary services: the only hospital-based food pantry in the country, legal partnerships to aid in the medical care of our patients, and the center for refugee health and human rights to name a few.
In their clinical years, students are also able to work in our unique network of community health centers, hospitals in multiple communities including the VA system and our branch campus in northern California. The diversity of settings and sites allows our students to be better prepared for the complex health system in which they will practice.
Combined Degree Programs
In addition to our MD and MD-PhD programs, BUSM offers several dual degree options, including MD-MPH, MD-MBA, MD-MACI, and MD-JD. Students typically enter these graduate programs after completing the core clerkship year, but other options are available.