Dr. Rajesh Mangrulkar presenting in class

Curriculum FAQs

The Know Behind the Knowledge

A handy explainer for curious learners.

In 2013, we began the process of developing a forward-looking curriculum that will allow our graduates to thrive in the rapidly changing health care environment. The major architectural changes to our program began in fall 2016 and will continue to progressively change over the next few years.

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

How will these changes affect me if I am applying now?

If you are applying now and plan to matriculate with our next class, you will enter medical school with the new curriculum in place from the beginning. 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!

Can I have a say in these changes to the curriculum, both current and future?

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.

What type of curriculum is it?

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.

What is "Trunk and Branches"?

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

What are the main components of the curriculum?

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. Supports the development of the student’s clinical skills and professional identity within M-Home’s small-group, mentored learning environment.
  3. Directed Professional Development. Provides meaningful choices and learning experiences based on the professional direction of the student.
  4. Applied Leadership Education. Prepares students for leadership in the general clinical environment and for specialized contexts (e.g., health care policy).

What is Launch?

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.

When will I see my first patients?

Your Interprofessional Clinical Experience (ICE) will provide you with early patient connections and interactions with other health professionals in various clinical settings on a regular basis throughout your M1 year. Through ICE, you will further develop your understanding of patient care, allied health professional roles, team communication and systems of care delivery.

What patient populations will I encounter 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.

What happens if I struggle with my coursework?

You will find support! Students meet with faculty coaches one-on-one throughout the M1 year. 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 within your House, you can access 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.

Can I take time out to earn another degree or conduct research or participate in another program at another campus while I’m in med school?

Flexibility increases as students progress through the program, with maximum flexibility in the Branches phase, where students can choose to accelerate at their own pace as competencies are met. 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.

How many clinical departments do you have?

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:

  • Anesthesiology Student Interest Group (ASIG)
  • Cardiothoracic surgery interest group
  • Emergency Medicine Interest Group (EMIG)
  • Family Medicine Interest Group (FMIG)
  • Integrative Medicine and Complementary and Alternative Medicine (ICAM)
  • Internal Medicine Interest Group (IMIG)
  • Michigan Radiology Interest Group (MRIG)
  • OB/GYN Interest Group
  • Oncology Interest Group
  • Ophthalmology Student Interest Group
  • Orthopaedic Surgery Student Interest Group (OSSIG)
  • Pathology Medical Student Interest Group
  • Pediatric Interest Group
  • Plastic Surgery Interest Group (PSIG)
  • Psychiatry Student Interest Group (PsychSIGN)
  • Radiation Oncology Interest Group (ROIG)
  • Student Interest Group in Neurology
  • Surgeon Scientist Interest Group (SSIG)
  • Surgery Interest Group (SCRUBS)
  • Wilderness Medicine Interest Group

Do students have time for a life outside of med school?

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.

Do I have to attend lectures in person?

You can choose to attend lectures in person or view them online. Students regularly share their lecture notes with their peers and from one class to another through a student-managed wiki. The entirety of curriculum resources is online for students in the Canvas course management system.

How will I be graded?

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.

What is flextime quizzing?

During M1 year, students are assessed via frequent quizzes and exams are given at the end of each sequence. One of the most popular features of the early curriculum is the flexibility of weekly assessments (minus a few “quiz free” weekends), which are typically open to take Friday afternoon through Sunday night. We trust you to manage your own schedule, take the exam when you’re ready, and still have a life with time to see your friends and family, participate in student groups or do whatever interests you.

What will my M1 year look like?

Your M1 year will have the strong systems-based 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 education, leadership 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 lectures to case-based small group discussions to hands-on labs and practical exams.

How can I learn everything in the preclinical curriculum in a year?

We have not cut any material you need to know, but rather redistributed it across four years. Your first year will focus on building a solid foundation, and then basic science material will continue to be presented throughout your clinical years, allowing clinical experiences to drive scientific learning.

Will I have a summer break?

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

What does the Doctoring Course cover?

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.

What is M-Home?

M-Home is our learning community designed to give you a built-in support 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. The Doctoring Course is managed through M-Home.

What are the Paths of Excellence?

During the Scientific Trunk, you’ll learn core content related to our eight Paths of Excellence that is essential for all practicing physicians. 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.

Choose one of eight Path of Excellence concentrations in Global Health & Disparities, Ethics, Health Policy, Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Medical Humanities, Scientific Discovery, Scholarship of Learning & Teaching, and Patient Safety/Quality Improvement/Complex Systems.

How will leadership skills be taught?

The leadership program provides expanded opportunities and dedicated time for leadership development. Sessions range from practicing difficult conversations, to analyzing case studies, to discussing the importance of developing and maintaining a purpose in life.

What will my M2 year look like?

During your M2 Clinical Trunk year, you will transition from classroom-based learning to clinical learning. The year begins with a three week “ramp-up” period intended to help you get ready for clerkships. 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, Ob/Gyn, Pediatrics, Psychiatry. Emergency Medicine is also required, but you take that in the Branches.

What happens in 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.

I’m really into global health. What opportunities are available in med school?

The University of Michigan Medical School partners with many hospitals and teaching centers in other countries to share in educational, clinical and research efforts here and abroad. In the past, medical students have participated in rotations in Ethiopia, India, Brazil, Croatia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Uganda, and more. Global REACH supports a number of initiatives that provide meaningful international experiences for UMMS students.

Will I be able to do research in med school?

There are several places that research can fit into your time at Michigan. Some students seek out mentors and start work on research projects 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.

When will I take the STEP 1 exam? Will there be a dedicated study period?

You will have a dedicated study period of at least six weeks after completing clinical clerkships at the end of the Clinical Trunk. You can take the STEP 1 exam anytime during that period.

Will I be prepared for the STEP exams and residency interviews?

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, 2017).

How does the curriculum incorporate the use of electronic health records (EHRs)?

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.

Which device should I use for medical school (taking notes, etc.)?

We currently require all incoming med students to have a laptop to manage their curricular course load. During Launch, M2s host a session dedicated to note taking and talk about which devices students like to use (computer, tablet, etc.). If you are looking to purchase a new device for school but are still unsure of which to get, we recommend waiting until this session or until you have had a chance to speak with students or our IT support team about your specific concerns.

For more information, review our curriculum diagrams.