University of Virginia
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School of Medicine
General Information  |  Admissions Policy  |  The Curriculum
Philosophy of Medical Education
Degree Requirements
Fundamental Objectives for Undergraduate Medical Education
Combined Degree Programs
Student Organizations

The Curriculum

Throughout the four years, the curriculum combines the practice and science of medicine. Patient contact begins early in the first year and increases throughout the four years. The curriculum is a thoughtful balance of lecture courses, problem-based small-group courses, hands-on laboratories, and hospital and community-based clinical experiences. At the center of the curriculum is the patient, the science of medicine, and the physician’s role in improving the health of individuals and communities. Students adapt the curriculum to their own learning styles. Some students prefer to learn from lectures; others from self-study of notes provided by faculty or from texts and computer materials.

First Year In the first year, students develop an understanding of normal human biology and its relationship to the practice of medicine. Instruction in physiology, genetics, biochemistry, anatomy, histology and neuroscience present the scientific core of the physician’s knowledge base. At the same time, the students’ advancing scientific knowledge is integrated with clinical applications in the Practice of Medicine course. In small-group, problem-based experiences, students interview patients in hospitals and in other health care settings and learn to take patients’ histories and conduct physical examinations. During the first year, students meet with physicians on a one-to-one basis in the mentoring program.

Second Year The coordinating theme of the second year is provided by the problem-based course, Introduction to Clinical medicine. This course consists of clinical case studies which students solve in small group tutorials led by physicians. During the year, students also work on a one-to-one basis with physicians to develop their skills in taking medical histories and conducting physical exams. Other courses such as pathology and pharmacology are coordinated with Introduction of Clinical Medicine to emphasize the clinical correlations between medical science and medical practice. In the spring of the second year, each student participates in a preceptorship to work with a doctor in a community practice. Students go to many areas of Virginia for their preceptorship and live in those communities for the week.

Third Year The third year is devoted to clinical training. Students take clerkships in medicine, surgery, pediatrics, primary care, psychiatry, and obstetrics and gynecology. There is extensive direct contact with patients, and students work with a well-balanced patient population, which includes primary, secondary, and tertiary care. Teaching is related to the patient on rounds and in small tutorial seminars, lectures and group discussions. Emphasis is given to the principles of prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and the continuing integration of clinical medicine with medical sciences and the psychological factors that influence health. Students work in small groups and rotate among many clinical services, gaining practical experience under supervision in the wards and outpatient clinics of the University of Virginia hospitals, the Roanoke Community Hospitals, the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Salem, the Western State Hospital, and INOVA Fairfax Hospital in Northern Virginia. The teaching programs at the affiliated hospitals allow students to observe the practice of medicine in multiple settings and gain exposure to a somewhat different spectrum of illnesses than that seen at the University of Virginia. During their third year, all students spend an average of 28 weeks away from Charlottesville in affiliated clerkship locations.

Fourth Year The electives program in the fourth year allows students to pursue their own interests. Under the guidance of a faculty advisor, students choose clinical rotations, basic science and humanities courses, and research activities. Clinical rotations are available at sites in Salem, Roanoke, Lynchburg, Fairfax, and Charlottesville. Programs are tailored to meet individual interests and needs, including a selection of programs in other domestic and foreign settings, in appropriate community medicine programs, or in other activities of suitable educational merit. Students also complete their four-week neurology clerkship in the fourth year.

Philosophy of Medical Education


At the University of Virginia, we believe that art and science should be blended in medical education. Our mission is to confer scientific knowledge and skill and to convey an appreciation of the interpersonal qualities of comfort, care and understanding essential for a complete physician-patient relationship.

Two fundamental components of our educational philosophy are, first, that principles of problem understanding and management are more important than retention of isolated facts, and second, that learning is facilitated by the presence of the patient. Thus, we correlate principles of basic science with presentation of the patient in the first two years, teach clinical medicine by utilizing real patient problems, and emphasize teaching at the bedside and in the clinic whenever possible. These methods enhance the base of meaningful knowledge that can be readily recalled and applied. The School is also committed to small group and individual teaching in which interaction between student and faculty can be maximized.

Degree Requirements


The degree of Doctor of Medicine is conferred by the University of Virginia upon candidates who have complied with the entrance requirements of this School and satisfactorily completed the subjects included in the medical curriculum.

Candidates for the degree of Doctor of Medicine must have completed the full course of study for this degree and must be certified by the faculty as having successfully met all of the criteria. These include satisfactory completion of the preclinical courses of the first two years, 52 weeks of required clinical clerkships, and 28 weeks of electives. In addition, the student must take and pass Step 1 and Step 2 of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). Furthermore, students must demonstrate those professional attitudes and behaviors that form the foundation upon which the practice of medicine rests. The elements of these attitudes and behaviors include altruism, accountability, honor, integrity, humanism, commitment to service, and striving for excellence.

Fundamental Objectives for Undergraduate Medical Education


The Curriculum Committee has adapted a set of fundamental objectives for the undergraduate medical education based on findings of the 1998 University of Virginia School of Medicine Task Force on Medical School Objectives. These are presented in outline form.

The competencies required of the contemporary physician include:

  1. The development and practice of a set of personal and professional attributes that enable the independent performance of the responsibilities of a physician and the ability to adapt to the evolving practice of medicine. These include an attitude of:
  1. humanism, compassion, and empathy,
  2. collegiality and interdisciplinary collaboration,
  3. continuing and lifelong self education,
  4. awareness of a personal response to one’s personal and profession limits,
  5. community and social service,
  6. ethical personal and professional conduct,
  7. legal standards and conduct,
  8. economic awareness in clinical practice;
  1. Competence in the human sciences:
  1. in the understanding of current clinically relevant medical science,
  2. in scientific principles as they apply to the analysis and further expansion of medical knowledge;
  1. The ability to engage and involve any patient in a relationship for the purpose of clinical problem solving and care throughout the duration of the relationship;
  2. Eliciting a clinical history;
  3. Performing a physical examination;
  4. Generating and refining a prioritized differential diagnosis for a clinical finding or set of findings;
  5. Developing and refining a plan of care for both the prevention and treatment of illness and the relief of symptoms and suffering;
  6. Developing a prognosis for an individual, family or population based upon health risk or diagnosis, with and without intervention, and planning appropriate follow-up;
  7. Selecting and interpreting clinical tests for the purpose of health screening and prevention, diagnosis, prognosis or intervention;
  8. Organizing, recording, presenting, researching, critiquing and managing clinical information;
  9. Selecting and performing procedural skills related to physical examination, clinical testing and therapeutic intervention; and
  10. Knowledge of the social, economic, ethical, legal and historical context within which medicine is practiced.

Combined Degree Programs


Time Limit for Completion of the M.D. Degree Students in combined degree programs must complete the requirements for the M.D. degree within seven years of matriculation in the School of Medicine. Those who are making progress toward graduation but who will exceed the seven-year limit may apply to the Student Promotions Committee for one-year extension. The Committee may grant more than one extension; application must be made on a yearly basis.

M.D.-Ph.D. (NIH Medical Scientist Training) Program
The goal of the program is to provide students with the highest quality training to conduct biomedical research as well as a firm grounding in clinical medicine. Ph.D. training may be done in one of our Basic Science Departments including Cell Biology, Biochemistry & Molecular Genetics, Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry, Microbiology, Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics, and Pharmacology. We also offer a wide variety of Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs in the areas of Immunology, Cardiovascular Physiology, Cell and Molecular Biology, Neuroscience, Biophysics, Molecular Pharmacology, Molecular Medicine, Chemical Engineering, Cancer, and Infectious Diseases. A major emphasis of the program is to train physician-scientists who will lead the biomedical research community in efforts to discover the fundamental basis of human disease and to develop innovative new therapies for their treatment. For more information see

M.D.-M.S. Health Evaluation Sciences
This joint M.D.-M.S. Health Evaluation Sciences program is designed to develop the research, analytic, and quantitative skills that students need to succeed in a variety of health careers. The M.S. portion of the program can be completed in one academic year after the third year of medical school. Five areas of specialization are offered: epidemiology, clinical investigation, health services research, health care informatics, and health care resource management. Students choose an area of particular interest to them and complete core and specialized courses and a final project.

M.D.-M.S. Public Health (M.P.H.)
This multidisciplinary degree will be offered in collaboration with the School of Medicine, Law, Nursing, and the College of Arts and Sciences. The program emphasizes Public Health, Law and Ethics, Community Health, Global Health, Bio-preparedness, and Health Policy Management. Medical Students who decide to pursue the M.P.H. should expect to extend their education by one year.

M.D.-M.A. Bioethics
The School of Medicine and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences offer an M.A. degree in Bioethics. Medical students at the School of Medicine may apply for this program which can be pursued along with their professional training. Students interested in this program should plan on extending their educational experience by one year.

Student Organizations


In 1967 students from all four classes created the Mulholland Society, an all-inclusive student body that would provide greater interaction among the four classes, a unified student voice to promote the interests of medical students, and an outlet for the academic, social, and athletic interests of students. Instead of calling it a student body, however, it was named a "society" to emphasize the importance of camaraderie and teamwork within and between classes. They named this society in honor of the late Dr. Henry Bearden Mulholland, one of the most distinguished figures in American medicine, whose entire career was spent at the University of Virginia from 1917 to 1962. The society chose his name in honor of his special interest in student affairs and because he represented "the best in medicine, not only in the classroom but in the community."

Mulholland Society Council (The Medical Student Government) The Council works to monitor and improve all aspects of medical student life, both in and out of the classroom. All class officers and Mulholland Society officers sit on the Council. The Student Medical Education Committee exists to provide coordination for medical student input on medical education issues to the various faculty administration committees and the Dean’s office. Students also sit on the Curriculum Committee, the Admissions Committee and the Dean’s advisory committee. Membership on standing committees is open to any interested students, and Council meetings are always open.

American Medical Student Association The local chapter of AMSA was founded in 1994 and offers students a mix of community service opportunities such as Habitat for Humanity, benefits such as health insurance and loan programs, grants for local projects and elective rotations abroad and even a summer elective class in medical Spanish. The two primary goals of the organization are to provide students with needed services and support, and to help students get involved in service-oriented community-based activities.

American Medical Women’s Association AMWA addresses medical issues that are vital to women’s health, prepares women for leadership positions in medicine, and promotes equity in professional status and pay. A physician branch and a student branch are open to women who are faculty, residents, or medical students at the University of Virginia. Student members are eligible to apply for loans and scholarships.

The Arrhythmics This co-ed a cappella singing group is open to medical students and members of the Health System Community. Activities range from singing on the wards, in the hospital lobby, and for faculty/administration. The proceeds from fund-raising activities go to a medically-related charity.

Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association APAMSA is devoted to meeting the unique educational and social needs and interests of Asian-American medical students. This includes efforts to foster Asian student/faculty interaction, health outreach to Asian communities in the area and communication among Asian medical students at the University of Virginia. The organization offers a forum and a vehicle through which students can voice their concerns about issues pertinent to the Asian medical community. APAMSA sponsors speakers, workshops on topics of interest, social activities and cooperates with other Asian-American student associations on joint projects.

Charlottesville Free Clinic The Free Clinic opened in 1992 in order to provide free health care to that segment of society that is working but is still unable to purchase health insurance. The clinic is open three evenings a week and is staffed by volunteers from all medical fields. Medical students can sign up in their first and second years to act as initial health screeners. Third and fourth year medical students may choose to see patients in collaboration with physicians.

Christian Medical Fellowship The CMF is the local chapter of the national organization, the Christian Medical and Dental Society. They welcome all interested physicians, dentists, residents, medical students, and their guests. Opportunities include prayer meetings, Bible studies, and community service projects.

ClubMED This is the interest group for students interested in the field of Internal Medicine. The group was founded in 1993 and is sponsored by the UVa department of Internal Medicine. Students work to provide speakers on a variety of topics, to introduce medical students at all levels to the field of Internal Medicine and to host an informal social event to promote interactions between faculty and students.

The Elizabeth Project This is a statewide community-based project sponsored by local churches. Volunteers are needed to work with teenage expectant mothers. Each volunteer who successfully completes the training program is paired with a teenage mom. The program is broken into twelve-week sessions, which include a weekly evening course attended by the mom and her partner.

Family Practice Club The Family Practice Club was organized with the goal of introducing medical students to the field of Family Medicine. Meetings often feature a speaker and topics of interest to medical students in general. The club also sponsors a Follow-a-Resident program and Follow-a-Maternity Patient program for first and second year medical students. The Club is associated with the Virginia Academy of Family Physicians and the Department of Family Medicine.

HIV Education Program Through this program medical students are trained to present educational workshops about HIV and AIDS to junior high, high school, and college students in the Charlottesville area.

International Medicine Club This is an informal group founded to address the growing need to view medical and public health issues in a global multicultural perspective. Goals are to highlight career opportunities, to invite public speakers to lead group discussions, and to provide the opportunity for students to contribute to health care around the world.

Operation Smile This group works closely with the Department of Surgery to provide plastic surgery to indigent patients, both here and abroad.

The Orthopedic Club This club was started for students interested in the field of orthopedics. The club is sponsored by the University of Virginia Orthopedics Department. This is an excellent way for student to work with faculty before the fourth year and to learn skills used in orthopedic surgery.

The Pediatrics Club This club was founded by a group of students interested in the field of Pediatrics. The club works closely with the UVa Pediatrics Department in order to sponsor speakers and events designed to introduce first- and second-year students to clinical issues in Pediatrics.

Project S.M.I.L.E. "Students Making It a Little Easier" is an organization sponsored by the American Cancer Society, which matches medical students ("big buddies") with pediatric hematology/oncology patients ("little buddies"). Big buddies accompany little buddies to oncology clinic appointments, to planned organizational functions, and in general, provide emotional support to the patient and to the family of the patient.

S.H.A.R.E. SHARE was founded by members of the class of 1989 and 1990 and acts as an independent umbrella organization devoted to service projects. These projects include teaching local high school and college students about HIV, working with indigent patients at the Charlottesville Free Clinic, visiting nursing homes and retirement communities, spending time with children at a local shelter for families in emergencies, and refereeing and coaching in Special Olympics activities.

Sloane Society The Sloane Society was started in 1999 and is partly funded and supported by the Humanities in Medicine program. Activities range from lectures on bioethical issues to film viewing and play readings.

The Spinal Chords Founded in 1979, this a cappella singing group is made up of first- and second-year men and brings "music and mirth" to the hospital and the community-at-large. They perform in class, on the wards, and throughout the state. In addition, the "Chords" raise funds for the Children’s Medical Center, which are presented each May during the CMC telethon. Membership is open to all male members of the first and second-year class.

Student National Medical Association SNMA is a national organization founded with the purpose of increasing the number of physicians who serve minority and indigent communities. Accordingly, the SNMA develops programs for implementation of urban and rural health care as well as for the encouragement of minorities to enter and succeed in the health professions. The Chapter at the University of Virginia School of Medicine is dedicated to the recruitment, success, and retention of minority medical students, to the success of pre-medical students, and to contribution to the surrounding community through the utilization of members’ skills and training.

Surgery Club The Surgery Club, aka the Cabell Society, introduces the discipline of surgery to students. Club members believe that all future physicians will benefit from increased understanding of the role surgery plays in the delivery of health care. The club is also designed to help those with an interest in surgery gain some exposure in the first two years. The club sponsors talks, social events, and a surgeon-shadowing program.

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