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SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

Department of Physiology and Pharmacology

Introduction to the College of Medicine’s Curriculum


Prepared by Riccardo Bianchi

Faculty of the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology take part in multiple activities in the College of Medicine at SUNY Downstate. The faculty participates in the design, teaching, evaluation, and administration of the medical school curriculum.

The curriculum of the College of Medicine underwent a major renewal process that led to the inauguration of the Integrated Pathways Curriculum (IPC) in the 2013-2014 Academic Year. The IPC is an innovative competency-based and student-centered curriculum, designed to prepare our graduates to enter any field of medicine. Its roots are the guiding principles of Integration, Collaboration, and Relevance. The understanding and application of biomedical science is integrated with the development of professional and clinical skills beginning at the start of the curriculum and building throughout all four years. This includes learning of the knowledge, attitudes, and skills contained within the College of Medicine’s six Domains of Competence:

  • Patient Care
  • Medical Knowledge
  • Interpersonal and Communication Skills
  • Medical Professionalism
  • Practice-Based Learning and Improvement
  • Systems-Based Practice

Each of the six competencies are taught in an integrated fashion so that students understand how the individual competencies are linked and related to being an excellent physician. Active learning methods such as interactive lectures, small group learning, and hands-on laboratory activities support our students’ ability to become motivated, life-long learners.

The 4-year IPC is divided into three major segments:

Foundations of Medicine (18 months) – Students develop the foundational understanding and skills necessary to begin to care for patients. Learning is organized into six interdisciplinary Units, based on foundational concepts (Unit 1, Systems Overview: Human Structure and Function; Unit 2, Molecules to Cells; Unit 3, Infection & Host Defense) or on organ systems (Unit 4, Gastrointestinal, Endocrine, and Reproductive Systems; Unit 5, Cardiovascular, Respiratory, and Renal Systems; Unit 6, Brain, Mind, and Behavior).

Core Clinical Medicine (12 months) – Specific core knowledge and skills are taught and evaluated in ten different Clerkships that are paired to enhance interdisciplinary teaching (Women’s Health—Pediatrics; Psychiatry—Neurology; Internal Medicine—Primary Care; Perioperative Care, Anesthesia and Surgery—Career Exposure Elective; Medicine—Surgery).

Advanced Clinical Medicine (12 months) – Students deepen their level of proficiency and prepare themselves for the transition into residency. There are required rotations — Internal Medicine or Pediatrics; Diagnostic Imaging; Critical Care; Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine; Emergency Medicine. Students are also required to take two or four weeks of Translational Science Selective courses that are designed to provide a capstone immersion experience in biomedical science.


Faculty of the Department of Physiology & Pharmacology involved in major teaching and administrative roles for the IPC include the following:

  • Riccardo Bianchi, PhD – Associate Dean of Foundations of Medicine
  • Douglas Ling, PhD – Subunit Director of Unit 4, Gastrointestinal System
  • Lisa Merlin, MD – Director of Unit 6, Brain, Mind, and Behavior; Neurology Clerkship Director
  • Hillary Michelson, PhD – Subunit Director of Unit 5, Cardiovascular System
  • Nicholas Penington, PhD – Subunit Director of Unit 2, Intermediary Metabolism
  • Katherine Perkins, PhD – Subunit Director of Unit 5, Renal System
  • Steven E. Fox, PhD, and Antonia Quinn, DO – Co-Directors of Unit 1


For more information link to the Integrated Pathway Curriculum of the College of Medicine at SUNY Downstate