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University of Pittsburgh    
2020-2021 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  May 29, 2024
2020-2021 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog [Archived Catalog]

First Professional Program (MD)

The mission of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine is to improve the health and well-being of individuals and populations through cutting-edge biomedical research, innovative educational programs in medicine and biomedical science, and leadership in academic medicine. We strive to implement this mission with the highest professional and ethical standards, in a culture of diversity and inclusiveness, and in an environment that enables each individual to develop to his or her fullest potential.

UPSOM has a well-developed curricular infrastructure that combines a lecture- and problem-based curriculum with early and in-depth clinical experiences and an integrated organ systems approach to the preclinical sciences. The clinical years are characterized by an integrated clerkship structure and an emphasis on student flexibility. The UPSOM educational objectives, which are used to guide course content and learning objectives, underwent a school-wide review and update in 2017.

The current UPSOM curriculum   was implemented in 2004 and features active, participatory learning; a problem-based approach; an early introduction to the patient and the community; and the integration of a rigorous foundation in basic and clinical biomedical sciences with the social and behavioral aspects of medicine. Key subject matter is longitudinally integrated throughout the curriculum, building upon a foundation of prior learning while providing a level-appropriate and well-synchronized introduction of new content.

Scheduled instructional time in the first two years of the curriculum is a mix of lecture; small group learning (much of which is problem-based learning; the remainder includes demonstrations, faculty-directed problem-solving exercises, skill-practice sessions, and other activities); and other activities (which includes observation of and appropriate participation in patient care, community-site visits, experiences with standardized patients, high-fidelity simulations, patient conferences, laboratory exercises, and other activities).  Student achievement of course objectives is supported by a host of technologies, including the online curriculum and podcasts.  A longitudinal performance-based assessment program provides formative support as students hone their clinical skills.

The patient focus of the UPSOM curriculum begins on day one, in the Introduction to Being a Physician course. Students interview patients about their experience of illness and experiences with their physicians, to develop an understanding of their roles as medical professionals. Medical interviewing and physical examination courses follow, along with exercises examining the many facets of physician life-in society, ethical and legal settings, and at the patient bedside.

Throughout the first two years, students apply their new skills in local practices and hospitals one afternoon per week. The Foundations of Medicine block runs through three-fourths of the first year and provides language and concepts that underlie the scientific basis of medical practice. Organ Systems block courses integrate physiology, pathophysiology, pharmacology, and introduction to medicine with concurrent courses in the Introduction to Patient Care and Patient, Physician and Society blocks. Weekly discussions, patient interviews, and examination of hospitalized patients reinforce essential clinical skills.

The third-year curriculum consists of ten required clerkships. They are designed to optimize the balance between out-of-hospital and inpatient learning opportunities, eliminate unintentional curriculum redundancy, and optimize opportunities for student-designed curricula in the junior and senior years. The third year is punctuated by three one-week clinical focus courses.

Every student engages in a mentored longitudinal research project conducted longitudinally throughout the four-year curriculum. Completion and presentation of the scholarly project is due in the spring of the senior year and is a requirement for graduation. Students pursue their projects through several program options, which may include areas of concentration. An innovative system of web-based learning portfolios facilitates learner-mentor communication and enriches the possibilities for collaboration within and beyond the University.

Many key topics are integrated throughout the curriculum as longitudinal themes.  These topics include communication skills; cultural competence; critical thinking skills; disabilities medicine; geriatric medicine; evidence-based medicine; interprofessional education and team communications; palliative care; population medicine and public health; prevention; professionalism; public health preparedness; and substance abuse.

The information above details the school’s MD program.

                               Contact Information                             

                                   Office of Admissions and Financial Aid
                                   S520 Scaife Hall
                                   3550 Terrace Street
                                   Pittsburgh, PA 15261
                                   Fax: 412-648-8768

Requirements for Admission

Admission Process

The admissions process is described in great detail on the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid web site.

The by-laws of the Admissions Committee specifically state the school’s criteria for selecting students for admissions. The by-laws are reviewed and updated at the year-end business meeting of the UPSOM Admissions Committee.


Financial Aid

Financial aid for medical students is available in the form of scholarships, need-based grants, and loans (federal, private, and institutional resources).  For maximum consideration of all resources, students should complete the “Need Access Application” and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  These applications should include the student’s information, his/her spouse’s information (if applicable), and his/her parents’ information.  Signed copies of federal tax returns (for student/spouse and parents) must be provided to the financial aid office.  Aid is awarded on the basis of financial need, as determined from the financial aid applications and supporting documentation.  

Newly admitted students should apply no later than either one month after acceptance or by March 1 to ensure that an award letter is provided prior to the national decision date of April 30th.  

Upperclassman should provide all required information no later than April 1.  The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) should be submitted prior to April 1 to ensure results are available prior to the deadline.   

Students who do not wish to provide parental information are still considered for Federal Stafford loans, Federal Graduate PLUS loans, and private loans; these students should complete the FAFSA and provide a signed copy of their federal tax return.

The financial aid process is described in detail on the Office of Financial Aid’s website.

Academic Standards

The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine offers a centrally governed, integrated, interdisciplinary curriculum that emphasizes problem solving and self-directed learning. The academic year is in session between 10 and 12 months, depending on the level of study. Academic calendars specific to each year can be found on the Office of Medical Education’s web site. The first three years is a set curriculum and the fourth year is a combination of both set and elective offerings. To be considered to be making satisfactory academic progress, the student must complete the first two years of the curriculum by the end of the third year after initial enrollment. The full text of the guidelines for student promotion can be found in the medical student handbook on the Office of Student Affairs web site. Students are governed by an Honor Code, which seeks to support and sustain respect for each other as well as for patients. The full text of the Honor Code can be found in the student handbook.


The UPSOM makes use of a 2 tiered grading system.
The first two years of the curriculum are graded as Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory.
The last two years are graded using a five point narrative grading system that includes Honors, High Pass, Pass, Low Pass, or Unsatisfactory.

Degree Requirements

To receive the MD degree, students must:

  1. Successfully complete curricular requirements for each of the four years.

    First year: Courses in foundations of medicine including medical anatomy, cell communication and pharmacology. tissues in health and disease, human genetics, fuel metabolism, immunology in health and disease, medical microbiology; organ systems including neuroscience, introduction to psychiatry; scientific reasoning in medicine including evidence-based medicine-fundamentals and eveidence-based medicine-applied, patient, physician and society courses including introduction to being a physician; ethics, law, and professionalism, behavioral medicine, and the introduction to patient care courses.

    Second year: Course work in organ systems including body fluid homeostasis, digestion and nutrition, hematology, endocrine, reproductive and developmental biology, skin and musculoskeletal diseases, and integrated case studies; investigation and discovery, population health, and introduction to patient care courses.

    Third year: Rotations in inpatient medicine; family medicine; pediatrics; obstetrics and gynecology; neurology; psychiatry; surgery, anesthesiology; and outpatient experiences; medicine; emergency medicine; otolaryngology; and ophthalmology.  The third and fourth year schedule is viewed as a continuum and designed so students may enroll in clinical or research electives at any time during the third or fourth years.

    Fourth year: An acting internship in either internal medicine, pediatrics, family medicine, or surgery; four weeks of an integrated life science course of the student’s selection; a boot camp; and seven to eight months of clinical and/or research elective experiences.
  2. Pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination, both Steps 1 and 2 (CK and CS).
  3. Meet accepted standards of professional conduct and emotional stability.

Degree Options

In addition to the MD program, the UPSOM offers a structured MD/PhD dual degree program, an MD/MA in Bioethics, a certificate program in Clinical Research, and a five—year non-degree— granting program for physician-scientists.



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