First Year: The Basic Sciences

The first year of the DukeMed curriculum is focused on the basic sciences. Our curriculum covers the basic sciences in 11 months, allowing students to move on to clinical rotations in their second year. Unlike some medical schools that teach individual basic science topics as individual courses (immunology, pathology, microbiology etc), our first year curriculum is set up around 4 “blocks” that cover a set of topics through integrated lectures and sessions. The entire first year is graded pass/fail

First Year Courses
The MS1 year starts off with Molecules and Cells,  a six week course covering biochemistry, cell biology, genetics, and histology. The course is taught primarily through lectures and small group sessions. The remainder of the fall semester is spent on Normal Body which covers, as its name would imply, the normal functioning of the human body including gross and microanatomy and physiology. Lectures are complemented by small group lab sessions in physiology and microanatomy, and by cadaveric dissection in gross anatomy. Throughout the first year, microanatomy and microscopic pathology are taught using virtual microscopy, which allows the instructors to ensure every student gets to learn from the same specimen.

The spring of the first year starts off with a four week course in Brain and Behavior, covering neurobiology and human behavior. This course is taught largely through team-based activities and small group sessions. The remaining 20 weeks of the spring are spent on Body and Disease, the longest of the first year courses that covers microbiology, immunology, pharmacology and pathology. In Body and Disease, numerous small group sessions and class discussions and exercises are interspersed with high-yield lectures and simulation-based activities. Students are provided with “voice annotated Powerpoints” to watch at home (and ample time to watch them!) so that our in-class time is focused on reinforcing and applying the basic science concepts.


On top of the basic science curriculum, DukeMed students take part in two courses that meet one afternoon per week and teach us the interpersonal aspects of being a physician. The Prevention course, an interdisciplinary course taken with other brand new health professions students, spends the first four weeks of the first year covering best practice prevention care of populations. During the rest of the first year, the Practice Course covers important topics like the doctor/patient relationship, patient interviewing, and physical exam skills. Physical exam skills are also taught during a week-long Physical Exam intensive in early February.

Working together in First Year
Students at DukeMed realize that training to be a physician requires working in teams alongside our classmates.  Beyond the numerous in-class team and small group activities, many students work together to study outside of class, whether it’s in the Trent Semans Center, the Perkins (undergraduate) library, or anywhere around Durham.  In addition, the Notesgroup project has been a long-lasting student-run tradition at DukeMed. During the first year courses that are lecture based, each student is assigned to lectures on a rotating schedule and asked to create a set of high-quality notes for that lecture that are shared with the rest of the class; in exchange for your detailed notes for one lecture every few weeks, you get access to a set of notes for every lecture that you can use to study or to supplement your own notes.