Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine

of Case Western Reserve University

Academics > Curriculum > Basic Science


Basic Science

The basic science curriculum is designed to give students a broad-based foundation of knowledge of the complex human biological systems. During the first two years, the basic science curriculum is organized by organ system (e.g., cardio-respiratory, renal biology) with 15 curricular threads basic to medicine (e.g., physiology, anatomy/embryology, cell biology, biostatistics/epidemiology, bioethics) integrated across the courses. Normal cell and organ system function is the focus in year 1; the year 2 curriculum emphasizes abnormal function and reinforces the content from year 1.

Weekly themes guide the organization of each course (e.g., “The Heart as a Pump” during the year 1 cardio-respiratory course) and provide a focus for student learning. When possible, the curriculum integrates the basic science, clinical and research curriculum components around these weekly themes.

A problem-based learning (PBL) case provides the core for each week’s learning objectives. Students are encouraged to apply their knowledge through problem sets and cases during the week’s interactive seminars, which are designed to enrich the understanding of core concepts related to the theme of the week.

Self-directed Learning

The approach to learning basic science is based on adult learning principles where students take responsibility for their own learning and that of their colleagues. PBL and interactive, problem-solving seminars are designed to help students develop extensive skills in learning both independently and in teams — skills that are essential for excellent physicians and successful researchers.

Our competency-based assessment system reinforces these skills by helping students learn to accurately assess their own strengths and weaknesses, and create learning plans for themselves. They also develop teaching skills important to the rest of their career.

Curriculum Structure

During years 1 and 2, each week includes 11 hours of scheduled basic science curriculum, six hours of PBL and eight hours of labs, seminars and problem sets.

In year 1, an additional seven hours is devoted to clinical and research curriculum topics, which are integrated as much as possible with the basic science curriculum.

In year 2, students have an additional 14 hours of basic science, including an added clinical experience.

Students have most afternoons free to review and prepare educational materials, explore topics in more detail, work toward a master’s degree and engage in extracurricular activities.