University of South Alabama

The Curriculum

USA COM Active Learning Center

In 2012, the College of Medicine at USA revised the educational program by developing an integrated organ systems-based curriculum which emphasizes core competencies. These competencies were established by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education as a platform for medical education and include medical knowledge, patient care, practice-based learning and improvement, interpersonal and communication skills, professionalism and systems-based practice.

In the first two years of medical school, students master each organ system through a combination of lectures, laboratories, active learning sessions, and independent study. Patient-oriented, problem solving sessions are introduced early in the medical school curriculum.  For example in studying the respiratory system, the module is designed around five pathophysiological processes affecting the airways:  obstructive disease, restrictive disease, pulmonary vascular disease, gas-exchange/acid-base abnomalities and lung immunity and infection.  Students begin each week by interviewing patients with one of these diseases and are responsible for reviewing constructed clinical findings that are similar to those of the patients being interviewed. Thus, students interact with actual patients with actual problems not only resulting from their disease, but also from dealing with insurance companies, the medical system and day-to-day living. 

Dr. Brian Fouty, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine and Pharmacology, and co-module leader of the Respiratory Module shares, “Long after students have forgotten what we teach them, they will recall the 75-year-old Cambodian man with re-activated tuberculosis discussing how his wife and daughter died escaping that country in 1975. With this patient in mind, students will remember the critical aspects of his disease and how he was treated.”

During years three and four of training, vertical integration of the curriculum is maintained as topical threads such as laboratory medicine, therapeutics, nutrition, genetics, and aging are a formal part of the clinical clerkship experience. Here, students learn to apply scientific principles to the examination, diagnosis and treatment of human disease in a hospital or other clinical setting.

Curriculum Highlights

The first video (below left) highlights LEAP (Longitudinal Experience in Ambulatory Practice). The LEAP course exposes first and second-year medical students to the core principles of Primary Care and includes hands-on learning experiences in a clinical setting. The second video (below right), features first-year medical student interactions with a patient during the Respiratory Module.


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