MD Curriculum FAQs
Instructor talking and pointing in a lecture

Answering The Call

A Handy Explainer For Curious Learners

Here are some answers to questions you may have about the Michigan Medical School curriculum:

The Curriculum

Our goal is to not only graduate physician leaders who can affect positive change in health care, but also to give our students the opportunities and freedom to make an impact while they train. You do not have to wait until you graduate to capitalize on your drive and passion for making the world a better place. We hope to help you harness them and take action while you’re in medical school!

Absolutely – collaboration between faculty, staff, students and administration is a natural part of life at Michigan. You can contribute in many ways: review sequences, courses and clinical experiences; become a curriculum representative for your class; volunteer in a focus group and participate in Student Council activities or on one of the many student task forces that advise administration. These changes present an exciting opportunity to get involved in shaping the curriculum through participation on committees and in pilot programs. Students are continuously solicited for feedback and ideas for improvement from the faculty and administration.

Our M.D. program features a competency-based curriculum that integrates scientific and clinical learning across all four years, beginning with foundational knowledge that progressively narrows in focus as the student identifies and develops professional goals.

There are four major areas that contribute toward the development of an excellent physician and leader of change, which are categorized in our new curriculum as:

  1. Scientific & Clinical Foundation. Focuses on foundational scientific knowledge and clinical experiences. Also develops learning and thinking skills for students to be lifelong learners.
  2. Longitudinal Learning Community. M-Home supports the development of clinical skills and professional identity in a small-group, mentored learning environment.
  3. Directed Professional Development. Provides meaningful choices and learning experiences based on the professional direction of the student, guided by a personal Branch advisor.
  4. Applied Leadership Education. Four-year Leadership program prepares students for leading in the general clinical environment and for specialized contexts (e.g., health care policy).

The leadership program provides expanded opportunities and dedicated time for leadership development, building upon each experience over all four years. Sessions range from practicing difficult conversations, to analyzing case studies, to discussing the importance of developing and maintaining a purpose in life. You can choose to fulfill your Capstone for Impact project requirement in leadership.

As electronic health records increasingly become part of a practicing physician’s daily life, it is important for students to become familiar with how they work. Our curriculum includes learning objectives and coursework that integrates digital interaction with the health care system.

Calendars are updated regularly on our current medical student site.  

The Doctoring Course provides instruction in medical interviewing, advanced communication skills, physical exam techniques, oral and written documentation, in addition to addressing several important social and behavioral topics. Doctoring small groups are integrally linked to your M-Home experience. You’ll work closely with volunteer patients, families, peers and faculty as part of this four-year course.

The Branches

The foundational first part of our curriculum is called the Trunks, and the flexible second part of the curriculum is called the Branches.

Starting your third year, the Branches allow for advanced clinical experiences with professional development tailored to your personal interests. You’ll clearly define or refine your career goals with support from your coach, branch advisors, mentors and peers, all with the aim of maximizing your success in your future career, from residency and beyond. The Branches reserves 20 weeks out of the schedule for Capstone for Impact project work, so there is plenty of time to develop and execute your idea.

During the Scientific Trunk, all M1s attend a session to learn about our Paths of Excellence. At the beginning of the second semester, you can choose to apply to a Path to explore a topic of personal interest in greater depth. Each Path offers deeper understanding, hands-on involvement, and opportunities for impact and excellence, mentored by faculty who have deep expertise and passion for the subject. Work completed in your Path of Excellence can fulfill your Capstone for Impact project requirement for graduation.

There are seven Path of Excellence concentrations: Global Health & Disparities, Ethics, Health Policy, Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Medical Humanities, Scientific Discovery, and Patient Safety/Quality Improvement/Complex Systems.

M-Home is our learning community designed to give you a built-in support and mentoring system as you develop personally and professionally throughout your four years in medical school. On the first day of Launch, new students are welcomed into one of four houses. 

Grading & Coursework

The Scientific Trunk is pass/fail. The Clinical Trunk is honors/high pass/pass/fail. In the Branches there is a mixture of pass/fail, honors/high pass/pass/fail, and competency-based assessments.

During M1 year and the Transition to Clerkships course in the Clinical Trunk, students are assessed via frequent quizzes, and exams are given at the end of each block. One of the most popular features of the early curriculum is the flexibility of assessments, which are typically open to take Friday afternoon through Sunday night.

You will find support! Students meet with their faculty coaches one-on-one throughout medical school. Together you will develop learning plans, and determine what guidance and support you may need. Additional flexibility in the curriculum can sometimes be arranged on a case-by-case basis in response to personal crisis or unusual and compelling circumstances. Your staff counselor is always available to provide support and explore possible accommodations and/or flexibility at any stage in the curriculum.

In addition to the peers and faculty coaches, you will have access to several advisors and counselors, a dedicated Learning Specialist, a comprehensive collection of insider info through the Med Student Gateway sponsored by the Office of Medical Student Education, and many resources available through our Office for Health Equity and Inclusion.

Information and policies are available in the UMMS Bulletin.

Medical school is designed to be rigorous to best prepare you for the professional and personal demands of this field. That being said, we find it very important that students keep up with activities that are important to them, explore new interests and stay connected to people who support them. We encourage you to explore the many events and activities open to students on the University of Michigan campus, and all the offerings of our amazing town of Ann Arbor.

Yes, you will have six weeks off from medical school after your M1 year from late July to early September.

Your Pathway

All M1s start medical school with a unique orientation experience called M1 Launch. This is where you will be sorted into your M-Home house, engage in leadership and team building activities, familiarize yourself with the campus, meet your Doctoring faculty and small groups, take on a community service project together, and more. The week is designed to help you get to know your classmates while preparing you to hit the ground running on day one.

The passive knowledge transfer of science content occurs through pre-recorded asynchronous lectures. This allows for the optimal sequencing of content and improved technical quality. Learners can pause, rewind or watch recordings at 2x speed. All lectures are ADA compliant providing captions and searchable transcriptions. In-person sessions are focused on active learning where students interact with the material and faculty instructors. On average, 40% of required sessions each week are active learning in-person sessions.

As mentioned above, M1 year takes off with Launch, our version of orientation complete with getting sorted into your M-Home house. The rest of your M1 year will reinforce the strong scientific foundation for which Michigan is known. You will study normal and abnormal processes side-by-side in integrated organ system blocks. You will simultaneously learn clinical skills to complement the science in your longitudinal Doctoring Course.

For example, when you are learning about the anatomy and pathophysiology of the heart, you will be learning how to communicate with patients with cardiac problems, and perform a physical exam of the heart. You will also be introduced to interprofessional educationleadership and the Paths of Excellence. Throughout the Scientific Trunk, the pedagogies are matched to the content, so you will encounter many teaching formats ranging from pre-recorded lectures to in-person, case-based small group discussions to hands-on labs and practical exams.

During your M2 Clinical Trunk year, you will transition from classroom-based learning to clinical learning. The year begins with a four-week “ramp-up” period, Transition to Clerkships, which is intended to help you get ready for learning in a clinical setting. You will focus on developing habits of scientific inquiry that will help you learn from patients, and you will hone your clinical skills, so you are ready to become an integral member of the team on day one of your core clerkships. The bulk of your M2 year will consist of clerkships in the standard disciplines of Family Medicine, Neurology, Internal Medicine, Surgery & Applied Science, OB/GYN, Pediatrics, Psychiatry. Emergency Medicine is also required, but you take that in the Branches.

You will have a dedicated study period of eight weeks (continuous or in two separate four week blocks) after completing clinical clerkships at the end of the Clinical Trunk. This timing is flexible and scheduled based on individual preference. Students are required to sit for Step 1 by end of August of the M3 year.

Yes! If anything, you will be more prepared than students before you because you’ll be connecting clinical experiences with what you learn in the classroom earlier and more frequently, which is an ideal way to retain what you learn.

Michigan students have always been well prepared for the STEP exams, performing above the national average. More importantly, when it comes to the annual residency match, Michigan graduates are highly regarded. Our graduates consistently receive among the top five highest scores by residency directors nationwide (U.S. News & World Report, Best Medical Schools).

Your Interprofessional Collaborative Skills-Introduction course during M1 year will provide you with early patient connections and interactions with other health professionals in various clinical settings. Through this first-of-many interprofessional education opportunities, you will begin to develop your understanding of patient care, allied health professional roles, team communication and systems of care delivery.

During Medical School

The Michigan Medicine is the top tertiary care center in the state and draws patients from all over the region. As a leading research center, patients with rare and complex conditions seek the latest treatment options from providers who are leading experts in their fields. Our faculty and students provide care for underserved and uninsured patients through many programs and clinics throughout Washtenaw County and the surrounding area.

Flexibility increases as students progress through the program, with maximum flexibility in the Branches phase, where students gain more agency over their field of study through the Impact curriculum and Capstone for Impact project experience.  While approval to pursue a dual degree, research or programs at other institutions will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, students will be given every opportunity to be prepared to do so.

There are 20 clinical departments, 9 basic science departments and several interdisciplinary centers and institutes (see a list).

Many clinical departments offer opportunities to interact with faculty through medical student specialty interest groups (search 'interest'). This is a great way to find mentors outside of the structured support opportunities.

  • American Association of Neurological Surgeons Interest Group
  • Anesthesiology Student Interest Group
  • Cardiothoracic Surgery Interest Group
  • Dermatology Interest Group
  • Emergency Management Interest Group
  • Emergency Medicine Interest Group
  • Family Medicine Interest Group
  • Integrative Health & Medicine Interest Group
  • Internal Medicine Interest Group
  • Michigan Radiology Interest Group
  • OB/GYN Interest Group
  • Oncology Interest Group
  • Ophthalmology Student Interest Group
  • Orthopaedic Surgery Student Interest Group
  • Pathology Medical Student Interest Group
  • Pediatric Interest Group
  • Plastic Surgery Interest Group
  • Psychiatry Student Interest Group
  • Radiation Oncology Interest Group
  • Student Interest Group in Neurology
  • Surgeon Scientist Interest Group
  • Surgery Interest Group
  • Ultrasound Interest Group
  • UMMS Student Veterans and Military Medicine Interest Group
  • Urology Interest Group
  • Wilderness Medicine Interest Group

Our students are mentored throughout their medical education. A support team is in place at every stage, from M-Home house directors and faculty coaches to Branch advisors and career counselors, not to mention myriad connections to faculty in the full range of specialties who are ready to engage with students through interest groups, research projects, clinical experiences and other activities.

Our Global REACH office supports a number of initiatives that provide meaningful international educational experiences for UMMS students as well as opportunities to cover travel expenses through grants and scholarships.

There are several places that research can fit into your time at Michigan. Some students seek out mentors and start work on research projects before or during their M1 year. There are also multiple research opportunities during the Branches phase of the curriculum, through the Scientific Discovery Path of Excellence, earning a dual degree with a Master of Science in Clinical Research or MSTP, and with independent research mentors as part of your Capstone for Impact project.

We provide all incoming medical students with a laptop to manage their curricular course load.

Branch Overview graphic
Curriculum Diagrams

For more information and schedule examples, review our curriculum diagrams.

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