Students in a science class

Year 1

Scientific Trunk

The science behind the medicine.

The Scientific Trunk is your M1 preclinical year, the starting point in a journey of continuous learning. Integrating foundational science and related clinical experiences simulates what you will do throughout doctorhood. Regular practice now cements a valuable lifelong habit while building your knowledge and skill base. Pass/fail grading gives you some breathing room to figure it all out.

Faculty teaches in a lecture hall

The main features of the Scientific Trunk, which is divided into six blocks, include:

  • Launch orientation featuring M-Home house sorting and Doctoring small group assignments.
  • Foundational courses in molecular/biological sciences, evidence-based care, host defense, physical diagnostics and therapeutics, infection, hematology and immunopathology, along with blocks of fused normal/abnormal vital functions.
  • Chief Concern course and Interprofessional Education modules.
  • Development of patient care and information management skills throughout the year.
  • Additional longitudinal elements that start at this stage.
  • Histology lab.

Foundations of Medicine Blocks

The Foundations of Medicine courses make up three of the six blocks during the Scientific Trunk and introduce students to:

  • Biochemical, cellular and molecular process of the organ systems.
  • Physical diagnostics and therapeutics.
  • Immune system and its primary targets.
Students in an anatomy lab

Vital Function Blocks

The three Vital Functions blocks consolidate the foundational material for related organ systems with both normal and abnormal physiology presented at the same time. Combined with related clinical cases, anatomy and histology, this makes for deeply integrated content that reinforces what you learn. Subjects include:

  • Circulation, respiration and filtration.
  • Nutrition, absorption, regulation and reproduction. 
  • Cognition, movement, sensation and behavior.

By the end of the Scientific Trunk, you will have gained a comprehensive skill set that prepares you for expanded clinical time in the Clinical Trunk rotations.

  • My favorite part of the curriculum so far is the myriad classes and clinical opportunities that we get to experience as first-year medical students. While the roots of our education are grounded in the organ-based scientific knowledge necessary to becoming a good physician, Michigan recognizes that medicine is an art. Classes like leadership, ICE, IPE and ethics all give us opportunities to gain other essential experiences.

At a Glance

Please note, these diagrams are provided for reference only. Curriculum details are subject to change. 

As a physician, you never stop learning. By focusing on foundational knowledge from the beginning, we help students continue to learn and understand that medical school is not an endpoint in itself. It is a huge advantage to acquire the skills for asking questions and figuring out how to go about finding the answer if it hasn’t been given to you.

Michelle M. Daniel, MD, Assistant Dean for Curriculum and Clinical Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine