Hershey Curriculum

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Click to download a printable PDF for all four years.

This tab contains a graphical depiction of the curriculum for this track. The information is also available in a much-easier-to-understand text format by using this on-page link.

Profession of Medicine I

Two weeks in the middle of July

This course, the first you will attend at Penn State College of Medicine, is designed to help you make the transition to medical education and training and to begin to build some of the skills necessary for success in medical school and a career in medicine. The transition to medical school is a very important time in the life of every doctor. No longer are you in college or a master’s program, striving for high grades as an end in and of themselves, or as a ticket to gaining admission to medical school.

These first weeks mark that time when you join the collegial ranks of the profession, and medical school represents the first step of on-the-job training. Profession of Medicine continues throughout your medical school curriculum as you transition into clinical rotations and prepare for residency.

Medical Humanities

Beginning of August to first week in November

Medical Humanities includes topics such as empathy, suffering and resilience, and the cultures of medicine and medical education.

The Science of Mind-Body

December to end of February, with break

The Science of Mind-Body explores topics such as placebos, learned helplessness, behavior change and groupthink.

Critical Thinking

End of February to beginning of April

Critical Thinking takes up topics such as metacognition, cognitive errors and biases, intuitive versus analytic thinking, and medical decision-making in the face of uncertainty.

Science of Health Systems

August through May, with breaks

This 17-month longitudinal course spans the full medical school experience with the main focus in Phases 1 and 2. In this new health systems component, students will experience a new Science of Health Systems curriculum, where they will learn the foundations of health systems, health care delivery, financing, insurance, population and public health, socio-ecological medicine, quality, safety, value, and teamwork and leadership. Additionally, students will serve as patient navigators within the health system. Both the curriculum and patient navigator experience will allow students to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to function effectively amid the complexities of an evolving health system.

Foundations of Patient-Centered Care

Middle of July to next June, with breaks

This course, which spans the first 19 months of medical school training at Penn State College of Medicine, is administered within each student’s respective Society and is integrated with other first- and second-year courses. The course consists of three components: communication/clinical interviewing, physical examination, and integration, application and advancement teaching sessions.

Scientific Principles of Medicine

End of July through October

This course is offered as part of the Hershey track.

Anatomy

End of October to end of May, with breaks

Anatomy is taught through a series of block systems courses throughout Year 1: Musculoskeletal System, Hematology, Cardio-Respiratory Medicine and Renal Medicine.

Musculoskeletal System, Dermatology and Rheumatology

End of October to middle of December (with break)

This course has three major components. The first is dedicated to orthopedics, the second to rheumatology, and the third to dermatology. The course integrates dermatology, immunology, family medicine (sports medicine), internal medicine (rheumatology), orthopedics, pathology, and pediatrics (rheumatology). The subject matter is linked as joint disease connects orthopedics and rheumatology and, immunology connects rheumatology and dermatology. The lecture content and problem-based learning cases will help to illustrate the “connectedness” of this block of material.

Hematology

Middle of December to middle of January, with break

The goal of the hematology course is to provide students with an introduction to the pathophysiology, clinical manifestations, and the principles of treatment of diseases of the blood and blood-forming organs.

Cardio-Respiratory Medicine

Middle of January to beginning of April

The Cardio-Respiratory course is the students’ first intensive exposure to integrative physiology. Cardio-Respiratory Medicine requires mastery of cardiovascular and respiratory physiology, anatomy, embryology, histology, pathology, immunology and pharmacology, as well as the clinical science underlying cardiovascular and respiratory disease.

Lectures and problem-based learning cases are augmented by hands-on EKG sessions, training in the techniques of cardiac physical examination, workshops, lung and heart sounds simulations and a ventilation simulation laboratory. Cardiovascular disease remains a leading killer of Americans and lung disease is prevalent; knowledge gained here will be useful throughout your entire medical career.

Renal Medicine

End of April through May

The course provides an introduction to the physiology, anatomy, pharmacology, microbiology, and pathology of the kidneys and urinary tract. Topics include the relationship between structure and function of urinary system; fluid, electrolyte and acid/base homeostasis in health and disease; etiology and manifestations of common diseases of the kidneys; and cellular processes that mediate the actions of pharmacological agents active in the urinary system.

Clinical Skills Immersion

Second week in April

This is a week of clinical skills immersion.

Primary Care Preceptorship

One week in April

The Primary Care Preceptorship is an optional experience during spring break that provides an opportunity for first-year medical students to participate in an organized educational experience with physicians who are board certified in the specialties of family medicine, internal medicine, and/or pediatrics. This course is scheduled for one week and requires each student to complete 40 hours within the ambulatory care setting of his/her designated preceptor.

All clinical training sites are reviewed to ensure the learning environment can provide students with the opportunity to achieve defined learning objectives and the physicians who teach are up-to-date on board certifications. The course offers a clinical experience early in the students’ medical education and exposure to the fundamentals of patient care within the emerging models of health care in the 21st century. Students are offered clinical training experiences within the setting of the Commonwealth of PA, participating practices nationally, and an international track in affiliation with Global Brigades.

Reflection and Assessment

First week in June

This is a week of reflection and assessment.

Scholarship/Research and Global Health

Summer, end of Year 1

Over the summer, students have the opportunity to do research for the Medical Student Research project and/or participate in Global Health opportunities.

Scholarship/Research and Global Health

Summer, start of Year 2

Over the summer, students have the opportunity to do research for the Medical Student Research project and/or participate in Global Health opportunities.

Medical Ethics and Professionalism

Middle of August through October

Medical Ethics and Professionalism provides students with a framework for decision making in the face of common ethical challenges and addresses issues involving autonomy, informed consent, advance care planning, medical mistakes and truth-telling.

Science of Health Systems

Middle of August to early February of following year, with breaks

This 17-month longitudinal course spans the full medical school experience with the main focus in Phases 1 and 2. In this new health systems component, students will experience a new Science of Health Systems curriculum, where they will learn the foundations of health systems, health care delivery, financing, insurance, population and public health, socio-ecological medicine, quality, safety, value, and teamwork and leadership. Additionally, students will serve as patient navigators within the health system. Both the curriculum and patient navigator experience will allow students to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to function effectively amid the complexities of an evolving health system.

Foundations of Patient-Centered Care

Middle of August through January, with breaks

This course, which spans the first 19 months of medical school training at Penn State College of Medicine, is administered within each student’s respective Society and is integrated with other first- and second-year courses. The course consists of three components: communication/clinical interviewing, physical examination, and integration, application and advancement teaching sessions.

Anatomy

Middle of August to middle of February

Anatomy is taught through a series of block systems courses throughout Year 2: Gastrointestinal and Nutrition, Endocrinology and Reproductive Medicine and Neural and Behavioral Science.

Gastrointestinal and Nutrition

Middle of August to third week in September

This course provides exposure to the foundational basic science and advanced concepts necessary to understand the approaches used to diagnose, treat and manage disorders of nutrition, the oropharynx, esophagus, stomach, small and large bowel, pancreas, biliary system and liver. Foundational material will include integrative physiology of these organs.

The students will develop the ability to differentially diagnose, describe treatments, and review management of nutritional disorders and support as well as diseases of the GI organs and liver. The pathogenesis, pathology, differential diagnosis, clinical course, and complications of GI and liver diseases will be covered along with aspects of clinical management, especially the pharmacology of drugs used to treat them. The course will augment large-group classroom learning opportunities with problem-based learning, wet laboratory and simulation laboratory experiences.

Endocrinology and Reproductive Medicine

Last week of September through middle of November

The goal of this course is to learn about the general principles, physiology actions, causes and consequences of insufficiency or excess chemical messengers that function as hormones. These principles are then incorporated into the anatomy, histology and physiology of the female and male reproductive system, including pregnancy. Basic disease processes and therapeutics, including pharmacology, are also covered.

Neural and Behavioral Science

End of November to middle of February, with break

NBS incorporates basic neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, neurology, neuropathology, neuropharmacology, anesthesia, ophthalmology, radiology, behavioral science, and psychiatry. The goal is for students to understand the structure of the human nervous system, the biological mechanisms that underlie the functions of the nervous system, the neural basis of behavior, and the diagnosis, pathology and treatment of diseases that affect the nervous system by incorporating these topics with clinical relevance. The course also includes pathology wet labs and Neurology Day, where students interact in small groups with 14 patients who have various neurological disorders.

Communication

Early November to middle of February, with break

Communication focuses on exploring assumptions and biases that impact communication and communicating in dyads, teams, and larger systems.

Profession of Medicine II

End of February and early March

This course focuses on successfully transitioning students from preclinical to clinical training, building on the knowledge and clinical skills covered in Phase I. It includes advanced clinical skills training through simulation as well as several fundamental medical principles from various specialties that will be expanded and reinforced in subsequent clerkships. In addition, roles and responsibilities of a third-year medical student are covered through discussions on reflection, professionalism, and communication.

Clerkships

Beginning in early March

Required core clinical clerkships begin toward the end of Year 2. Clerkships are taught in three blocks. See clerkship details here.

  • Block 1 clerkships are March through mid-June.
  • Block 2 clerkships are mid-June through September.
  • Block 3 clerkships are October through mid-January.

Health Systems in Clerkships

Health systems is embedded in the clerkships; there is an in-depth focus on health systems in the health equity clerkship.

Kienle Groups

Select Fridays During Clerkships, March through January

The Kienle Group curriculum is part of a broader Humanities stripe across the entire Penn State curriculum and provides an opportunity for students to talk candidly about their personal challenges and perspectives as they move through their clinical clerkships. The sessions take place on designated Fridays during the course of the clerkship year.

Career Exploration and Synthesis

Three weeks over end of July/beginning of August

This is a week and a half Career Exploration and Synthesis session.

Integrated Science

Selected Fridays during Clerkships, March through January

This course will focus on building an integrated sciences approach into third-year medical students’ clinical training. Mastery of the processes covered by the course will enhance students’ ability to think critically about complex, clinical problems through the respective lenses of biomedical sciences, systems and social sciences. This course incorporates a humanities stripe, known as Kienle Groups, dedicated to student reflection on clinical experiences while providing a supportive environment for sharing difficulties and insights.

Assessment Weeks

Mid-June

End of September

Mid-January

Students take shelf exams during assessment weeks at the end of each block.

Clerkships

Beginning in Early March

Required core clinical clerkships begin toward the end of Year 2 and continue in Year 3. Clerkships are taught in three blocks. See clerkship details here.

  • Block 1 clerkships are March through mid-June.
  • Block 2 clerkships are mid-June through September.
  • Block 3 clerkships are October through mid-January.

Career Exploration and Synthesis

Two-week Career Exploration and Synthesis courses occur after the third rotation of each block.

Assessment Weeks

Mid-June

End of September

Mid-January

Students take shelf exams during assessment weeks at the end of each block.

Integrated Science

Select Fridays During Clerkships, March through January

This course will focus on building an integrated sciences approach into third-year medical students’ clinical training. Mastery of the processes covered by the course will enhance students’ ability to think critically about complex, clinical problems through the respective lenses of biomedical sciences, systems and social sciences. This course incorporates a humanities stripe, known as Kienle Groups, dedicated to student reflection on clinical experiences while providing a supportive environment for sharing difficulties and insights.

Kienle Groups

Select Fridays During Clerkships, March through January

The Kienle Group curriculum is part of a broader Humanities stripe across the entire Penn State curriculum and provides an opportunity for students to talk candidly about their personal challenges and perspectives as they move through their clinical clerkships. The sessions take place on designated Fridays during the course of the clerkship year.

Health Systems in Clerkships

Heath systems is embedded in the clerkships; there is an in-depth focus on health systems in the health equity clerkship.

Formative OSCE

Mid-January

Students take formative and summative OSCEs prior to starting Phase III.

USMLE Study

January through March

Upon completion of Phase II clerkships, students are given a dedicated study period for USMLE I.

Translating Health Systems

End of March

Phase III begins with a two-week Translating Health Systems intersession. This course is designed to help students apply concepts of patient safety, quality improvement, value and teams to the clinical setting. It provides students with opportunities to actively identify patient safety issues and develop a quality improvement project proposal. By design, this course emphasizes teamwork, an essential component in providing quality patient care. The goal is to guide learning in these concepts so that students will have the base knowledge to help improve care of their patients and the health system in which they will work during the fourth year of medical school and in residencies.

Phase III/IV: Discovery and Residency Prep

Students enter Phase III: Discovery following USMLE Board Prep. The Discovery Phase provides students with opportunities for additional career explorations, time to synthesize principles learned in Phase II and additional time for focused research. This phase includes the Translating Health Systems course, where students apply learned health systems principles. As students confirm their residency choice, they move into Phase IV, Residency Prep.

Phase IV: Residency Prep provides students with opportunities to refine knowledge and skills as they prepare for entry into residencies. This phase includes variety of electives, two acting internships and a Humanities selective. Students also prepare for and take the USMLE Step 2 CK and CS in the earlier part of Year 4. The phase is completed by the capstone course, Profession of Medicine III, followed by graduation.

Phase IV: Residency Prep

July to May, with breaks

Phase IV includes residency preparation, interviews and two total acting internships in different clinical fields or one acting internship and one critical care rotation.

Additional requirements include one humanities selective, completing six total electives (to include electives from Phase II and Phase III), and the Profession of Medicine III course (Transition to Internship). All graduation requirements are confirmed to be completed during this time. The College of Medicine offers a variety of clinical, teaching and research electives for students during this phase.

Students also prepare for and take the USMLE Step 2 CK and CS in the earlier part of Year 4.

Profession of Medicine III

Beginning of May

Profession of Medicine III course, or Transition to Internship, occurs at the end of each student’s medical school career and builds on these concepts in preparation for residency training. POM III is the final requirement for each graduating fourth year medical school class, taking place just prior to medical school graduation. Its structure includes both large group workshops (involving the entire fourth-year class) and a number of small group “selective” sessions. POM III was designed with goals of providing review and practice of key clinical skills and concepts, as well as introduction of new information regarding communication and collaboration with other health professionals, teaching and evaluation strategies for interns in their educator roles, and practice in effective patient handoffs. The course also includes time for reflection on professional responsibilities, personal stressors and individual support systems.

Graduation

May

See the graduation section of this site for more details.