The University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix continually strives to teach an evidence-based and pedagogically sound curriculum. As such, there are multiple moving parts of the curriculum that include organ systems-based blocks, longitudinal courses, clerkships and electives. While each curricular unit targets specific, and sometimes unique learning objectives and experiences, we have constructed a number of ways to provide seamless and cohesive content and bridging opportunities for students across the entire curriculum. Our Themes are central to this seamless integration. Contact information.

The five themes that span the entire four year medical student curriculum are:

Behavioral and Social Sciences Theme

The behavioral and social sciences theme promotes the integration and application of social and behavioral sciences across all aspects of medical education and practice. This theme is based on the core belief that excellence in patient care requires an appreciation and understanding of illness as a behavioral as well as a biomedical construct.

Behavioral and social sciences content is incorporated into all four years of the medical school experience. The curriculum emphasizes areas including, but not limited to:

  • Appreciation for the essential and transformative role of the physician-patient relationship.
  • Excellence in patient care through superior empathy and communication skills.
  • Recognition of psychosocial correlates of health and disease.
  • Cognizance of the role of social and behavioral factors in patient engagement, treatment, and outcome.
  • Development and maintenance of physician insight, self-awareness, self-reflection and self-care skills.
  • Mindfulness of context and respect for diversity across interactions with patients, their families and multidisciplinary colleagues.

Contact: Erin Nelson, PsyD

Biomedical Informatics (BMI) Theme

Clinical medicine and biomedical research are increasingly information dense activities. There is a rapidly accelerating and now federally driven movement toward the rapid and widespread adoption of electronic medical records and e-portability of health information. The biomedical informatics (BMI) theme integrates academic and clinical experiences to develop a new generation of clinicians with enhanced informatics competencies. The College of Medicine – Phoenix graduates will be well prepared to become leaders in their fields, incorporating the principles and practice of biomedical informatics and offering higher value patient care more universally than ever before.

Recognizing that the essence of the physician’s effectiveness in the future will flow in large part from information management and mastery, this aim is accomplished by a highly innovative curricular Theme which includes:

  • Case-based learning experiences by transdisciplinary interprofessional teams which foster rich clinician computing and informatics specialist interaction and collaboration.
  • Dynamically supported evidence-based medical training, teaching and practice through creation of unique synergies among Valley of the Sun hospitals, health care providers and the biomedical industry.
  • Utilizing information systems creatively and dynamically to support training, practice and research.
The BMI theme curriculum comprises more than 45 hours of required instruction in the areas of bioinformatics, imaging informatics and public health informatics with a particular focus on applied clinical informatics. Students are introduced to concepts underlying data organization, clinical decision making, decision support, electronic health records and, ultimately, how all of these support the continuous improvement of safety, quality and efficiency in clinical care.
For more detailed information about this curriculum and its impact on students, read The Evolution of a Novel Biomedical Informatics Curriculum for Medical Students by Howard Silverman, et. al. or visit the Department of Biomedical Informatics website.

Contact: Soumya Panchanathan, MD, MS.

Ethics Theme

The ethics theme integrates academic and clinical experiences to prepare medical students to act wisely and responsibly when faced with patient bedside ethical dilemmas. The theme topics that are covered across the curriculum are based on the moral traditions and insights of medicine, philosophy, humanism and ethics. The conceptual framework of ethics is the idea of a “moral agency”, which consists of elemental capacities such as moral sensibility, responsiveness, reasoning, accountability, character, valuing and leadership. The ultimate objective of this theme is to foster the cultivation of these capacities with the end result being humanistic patient care.

Ethics falls under the purview of “human values” — values that entrust honesty, integrity, dignity, kindness, and charity to the vocation of medicine and to the moral character of physicians. This theme engages students in the study of moral values and judgments as they apply to medicine, and emphasizes concerns for human interests, values and dignity in the care of the sick. The students will progressively become "moral agents”, responsible for making judgment and decision making, taking actions that comport with morality when caring for their patients.

The curriculum is designed to aid students in fortifying the foundation of their own personal morality as a physician. It will enhance the student’s understanding of:

  • Their role as a moral agent.
  • The moral nature of medicine.
  • The explanation and justification of moral choices and decisions.

Lectures, case-based group discussions and skill demonstrations are used to introduce students to the principle problems and dilemmas that physicians encounter in the care of patients. These areas include communication difficulties, truth-telling, privacy and confidentiality, informed consent and refusal, and end of life care and management. Students will be challenged to apply the knowledge and skills acquired to the resolution of “real life” ethical problems encountered in the context of their clerkships. By incorporating ethics into the curriculum, students can integrate the technical aspects of health care with a deeper meaning in caring for others.

Contact: David Beyda, MD.

Public Health, Prevention and Health Promotion Theme 

The philosophy of the public health, prevention and health promotion (P3) theme is that medicine and public health, while existing as separate disciplines, are natural allies and both should understand the other, working collaboratively. Both patients and society share the benefit of all physicians possessing a core knowledge base and set of competencies in the area of public health and population-level medicine.

The P3 theme trains all students in basic public health and prevention competencies as recommended by the Institute of Medicine. This content is taught throughout the four year curriculum at the College of Medicine – Phoenix in the organ/systems-based blocks as individual sessions and case-based student group analysis, as well experiences in capstones and intersessions activities.

In addition, there are P3 elective offerings for fourth-year students that allow exploration of content in more depth through rotations at state and county health departments and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Two electives are also offered for first and second year students: issues and trends in public health and applied public health practice.

Contact: Farshad Fani Marvasti, MD.

Health Care Transformation Theme

The Health Care Transformation (HCT) Theme is designed to prepare students for career success by exposing them to aspects of practice that lie outside the traditional clinical curriculum. HCT has five domains: Policy, Advocacy, Quality, Legal and Business. Each domain has overarching goals that cover practical aspects of essential knowledge for physicians to effectively deliver health care. Examples of topics covered include the Accountable Care Act, Medicare, Medicaid, private health insurance, physician performance measures and pay for performance, patient safety and quality, patient population management and quality improvement initiatives, malpractice issues and risk management, leadership and advocacy training, health care financial and delivery models.

Contact: Janet Maurer, MD.