Medical School Curriculum: An Overview

November 16, 2013

Almost all medical schools cover a similar curriculum over a similar time line, with just a few differences between them. Most of the differences lie in the order of the sessions and in the style of learning.  Here’s an overview of what you will be studying from year 1 to year 4 of medical school, irrespective of which university you enrol in.

Year 1

The first year at medical school is usually the most challenging year as you grapple with so many new experiences all at once. The first year covers basic science courses which will entail a large amount of memorization.

The courses you will be taking will include:

  • Gross anatomy – This has two distinct components. You will attend lectures and there will be a lab session. Different colleges structure these two components differently and the course can last between 3 months to12 months. These classes can be pretty tough as you learn about all kinds of body parts from bones and organs to nerves and blood vessels. Students are usually advised to study this course in groups.
  • Histology- This is the study of the cells of the human body. This too has the lecture and lab components. In some colleges, histology and gross anatomy classes are taken together. 
  • Pathology- In pathology you learn to look at slides and identify the causes of different particular ailments. It too has lecture and lab sessions.
  • Biochemistry- This is somewhat like organic chemistry where you find yourself having to memorize things like the glycolysis cycle and the Kreb’s cycle. This is mainly a lecture-based class.

During this year you will also get familiar with medical ethics courses and OSECs or Objective Structured Clinical Exams, where you are presented with numerous hypothetical patient scenarios.

Mother and child with Gap Medics student on the Paediatrics ward at Morogoro Regional Hospital Year 2

Year 2 is generally clinical-based. It is during this year that the real medicine factor enters the scene. You learn about all kinds of diseases that are encountered at the hospital, some of which you may be familiar with and others you may have never heard of before.

Year 3

This is the year in which you will do clinical rotations and join a medical team. The team will have an attending doctor, residents and interns. You will rotate through the different specialties of medicine. This is your chance to decide what doctor you want to be. You will be at the bottom rung of the ladder, the rest of the doctors will grade you and there will be a national test at the end of the rotations.

Year 4

This year is very similar to year 3 with a little extra specialization thrown in. You can work in a little more in the specialties and venture into the various branches within the specialty. The grading is along the same lines as the one that is followed in year 3. 

Medical school can be a difficult run. Hopefully having an inkling of what to expect can help make things a little easier for you.