Academics and Curriculum

DukeMed has a unique curriculum unlike any other in the country. Since the 1960s, Duke students have been given the opportunity to tailor their medical school education to fit their interests and goals. Duke students take all their basic science courses in their first year, and we spend our second year on the wards during our core clinical rotations.

The first year curriculum has been integrated over the years to form 4 courses: Molecules and Cells, Normal Body, Brain and Behavior, and Body and Disease. Each of these courses is taught by faculty members from a number of clinical and non-clinical departments who are often experts in their respective fields. Dedicated course directors ensure that all material is taught in a highly integrated manner. First year courses are taught through a variety of learning methods including lectures, small group lab sessions, clinical correlation patient talks, simulation exercises and team-based learning (TBL) activities. TBL-based courses consist of in-class discussions and clinical exercises, and at-home “voice annotated presentation” lectures. Learn more about the incorporation of TBL into the Duke curriculum. Throughout the first year, the Practice Course introduces us to the practice of medicine and the doctor-patient relationship. We learn how to approach and counsel patients, and within weeks of starting medical school, we start seeing real patients to learn and refine our interviewing and physical examination skills.

Our core clinical rotations during our second year include Internal Medicine (8 weeks), Surgery (8 weeks), Pediatrics (6 weeks), Obstetrics and Gynecology (6 weeks), Family Medicine (4 weeks), Psychiatry (4 weeks), Neurology (4 weeks) and Radiology (4 weeks). In addition, each student has 2 two-week “selectives” that allow us to get an introduction to other fields that we may be interested in. Throughout our second year, we develop and refine the basic clinical skills that will serve us well regardless of our future clinical specialties. The Practice Course continues through the Second Year, focusing on issues that are particularly relevant to our clinical work and allowing us to share our experiences with our classmates.

The Third Year, the “Crown Jewel” of the DukeMed curriculum, is when each of us can let our personal interests shine. We devote 10-12 months to some form of scholarly investigation, whether it’s basic science laboratory research, clinical research, or global health research. Laboratories from across the Medical Center open their doors to students who spend up to a year doing research before presenting their work in August on AOA Day. Many students choose to take a “second third year” to continue their research or pursue a dual degree in public health, business, law or other fields. Learn more about what students do in their third year.

After returning to the wards, students spend the fourth year on clinical subinternships and electives, all in anticipation of Match Day when they find out where they have been placed for their residency training. Our fourth years match at top programs across the country, and many choose to remain at Duke for their training.

For more information about our unique curriculum, visit the School of Medicine Office of Curriculum’s website