The mission statement of the School of Medicine (SOM) states that its "principal responsibility is to offer an excellent, comprehensive program of medical education, biomedical research and health care. The ultimate goal of this program is improvement of the physical and mental well-being of citizens of the state, nation and, indeed, the world." The SOM curriculum is designed to maintain this goal by providing students of high promise the opportunity to develop the knowledge, clinical skills, and personal qualities of excellent physicians. The fundamentals of medicine are taught by a distinguished faculty in a modern, caring environment.
The four-year curriculum is divided into the pre-clinical and clinical settings. Learning in the preclinical years occurs in the lecture hall, with professors delivering the details of how both the healthy and the diseased body functions. Guest lecturers, medical center, and community physicians, and specialists in research on current topics provide first-hand knowledge to supplement the instruction. Patients occasionally present to the class, giving a unique perspective. Students learn hands-on in the laboratory settings, from dissecting the intricacies of the human body in gross anatomy lab, to viewing normal microscope slides in histology and diseased specimens in pathology. Lab studies are conducted in pairs or small groups, which encourages active learning and team work. Small groups are common in the classroom setting.
Numerous courses assign case studies and projects designed for group learning. The application of the different teaching styles is specifically designed to maximize learning and prepare students to become critical thinkers.
The clinical years transition the medical student of the classroom into the student doctor in the hospital setting. Student clinicians work in different departments throughout the University hospitals and clinics, with a variety of health care providers including physicians, residents, nurses and other students. The focus is hands-on learning through direct patient care. Students assist with procedures and patient care under the guidance of residents and attendings, making them a vital part of the team. The clinical skills that UMMC medical students possess are widely recognized by residency programs throughout the country.
In both the preclinical and clinical stages, students receive substantial amounts of detailed information through coursework, interactions with professors, and clinical rotations. Recognizing the challenge of putting this information together to form a complete view of the human body, the administration and faculty have worked for several years to develop an integrated curriculum. Accordingly, similar topics in different courses are aligned to be taught in a contemporaneous manner. For example, while students are learning the gross anatomy of the muscles, they are also learning about the biochemistry and physiology of muscle function. As a result of this integration, the students not only better understand the big-picture, but the faculty in separate courses also works towards the common goal of educating the whole student. The emphasis on one particular course becomes secondary to coming together across disciplines to develop a strong, well-rounded student.
In addition to courses within a particular year being integrated, the years themselves are also intertwined. Although the pre-clinical and clinical years are different in many ways, the knowledge gained in each year flows into and is essential to the next. Therefore, the integration of the curriculum becomes horizontal within the individual years and vertical throughout the course of medical school.