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Importance of a basic sciences curriculum in an MD program

Questioning the importance of a basic sciences curriculum in an MD program seems counter-intuitive, especially when the most recent medical advancements are in subjects like organic chemistry or physiology. Medical science is entirely dependent on a thorough understanding of how the human body interacts with its environment and different elements.

Basic Science modules in an MD program have an additional purpose as well: preparing students for the USMLE Step 1 exam. This US medical licensing exam determines a student’s ability to apply Basic Science concepts in real-life medical practices and therapeutic techniques.

Here are some important Basic Science curriculum modules that are included in almost every MD program in the USA and the Caribbean.

  1. Human body structure and function: This module covers the basic human anatomy and body structure in depth. You gain a comprehensive knowledge of body parts and functions, their clinical anatomy and dependence on each other. The practical aspects of this subject include radiographic evaluations such as MRI and CT scans and regional dissections of cadavers.
  2. Histology and physiology: Histology is the study of how microorganisms affect parts of the human body. On the other hand, physiology covers all the biological functions occurring inside a living human being. This module covers the basic molecular biology of a human body along with the chemical and pathological reactions of the organ systems.
  3. Metabolism and nutrition: The module covered the biochemical pathways occurring in the human body before and after nutritional intake. It also focuses on the chemistry of energy-yielding processes. You can learn more about the different constituents of nutritional matter such as carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, vitamins and minerals. This expertise can help you understand different medical disciplines like endocrinology, enzymology, gastroenterology, and starvation metabolism.
  4. Genetics and development: The module helps you understand the basic principles of human and embryonic development. The principles can help you diagnose and treat existing genetic conditions and congenital abnormalities. You will also learn about the development of different body structures and their underlying genetic mechanisms.
  5. Immunology: The module includes studying the characteristics of different microbes and their role in the disease process. A few subjects in this module include basic pathology, bacteriology, mycology and parasitology. These concepts can help you devise treatment strategies for infectious diseases, auto-immune conditions, cancers, and hypersensitivity.
  6. Neuroscience and neurology: The module includes a comprehensive take on the gross and microscopic structures of the human brain, spinal cord and the nervous system. The module covers important concepts like brain energy metabolism and neurotransmitter synthesis.

In addition to these modules, you can also have other Basic Sciences subjects like Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Pharmacology.

While you can argue that most physicians don’t rely on concepts of basic sciences in their day-to-day clinical reasoning, they need expertise in other areas. Diagnosis of rare and difficult cases, clinical studies and medical research heavily depend on the knowledge of these disciplines. While selecting an MD program, look for a curriculum that has a comprehensive list of Basic Sciences subjects.

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