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Medical Student Education

Curriculum Overview

​​The Department of Family Medicine is extensively involved with Medical Student Education throughout the four years. Director of medical student education for the department is Dr. Ellen Beck.

Integrated Core Curriculum - Years 1&2 of Medical School

In August 2010, the SOM implemented the new Integrated Scientific Curriculum (ISC with the incoming first year class. This new educational program integrates concepts and practices of the Patient Centered Medical Home throughout students’ education. The essential elements of the new ISC include a five- quarter longitudinal organ-system based course on Health and Human Disease (HHD), and a similarly longitudinal Clinical Foundations (CF) course that has three components: in the Practice of Medicine (POM) section students learn the essential clinical and professional skills for actual practice; a Problem-based Learning (PBL) longitudinal component that parallels and integrates CF principles with the Health and Human Disease basic science content; and finally, a two-year longitudinal Ambulatory Care Apprenticeship (ACA) that starts early in the first year and extends through the second year and connects with the third year Primary Care Core Clerkship (PCCC) – see below. Students are also divided into one of six vertically organized (ie. all 4 years) Academic Communities to foster inter-student, inter-class and student-faculty relations.

DFM faculty played a key role in designing the CF course as well as in working with both basic science and specialty faculty to build and offer the PBL cases, and many DFM faculty are small group facilitators in both the Practice of Medicine and Problem Based Learning components of CF. Both Dr. Kallenberg and Dr. Johnson have leadership roles in the Clinical Foundations course. Dr. Sunny Smith and Dr. Marianne Mckennett are each faculty directors of one of the academic communities.

First and Second Year Electives

Foremost among these is the Student-Run Free Clinic Project, founded in 1997 by students with Drs. Beck, Johnson, Smith, and Rodriguez as advisors. It now operates 4 sites serving underserved communities of San Diego and has become a ‘safety net for the safety net’ in San Diego.. The prerequisite for working at the SRFCP is an elective in Community Advocacy/Underserved Medicine. More than 100 of the 120 first year students elect each year to take this intensive class. After the core elective, students in Years 1 and 2 take a second elective: Underserved Medicine/Free Clinic 2 in which students take on administrative roles at the clinic. Students can continue these electives throughout the second year. 90% of UCSD students participate in the SRFCP which now operates 4 sites serving homeless and underserved communities. The DFM includes active voluntary family physician faculty many of whom were originally students at the free clinic project. The program is a trans-disciplinary educational model. All 4 sites in the SRFCP also provide free dental services, pharmacy, and integrative medicine services.

The Baker Elementary Site at Baker Elementary serves primarily low-income families in an inner-city neighborhood; 100% of the children receive subsidized school lunches. The Downtown Site in partnership with 3rd Avenue Charitable Organization serves working poor and homeless individuals and families. The Pacific Beach Site works with street homeless and working poor. The newest addition, the Golden Avenue Elementary Site serves low-income families in an inner city neighborhood. At Golden Avenue, the students are also involved with an after school program and a middle school elective in Health Promotion, Advocacy, and Professions. ADD Free Clinic LINK

In addition to the SRFCP the DFM operates other first and second year electives in Integrative Medicine and Nutrition (led by a DFMPH faculty Dr. Cheryl Rock).

Student-Run Free Clinic

Third Year Selectives

A new SOM curricular component is a series of clinical selectives for third year students: DFM has implemented a number of these including Family Medicine, Underserved Medicine, Adolescent/School-based Medicine, Integrative Medicine. Each student selects one clinical selective of two weeks in areas of student interest.

Fourth Year Clerkships

In the fourth year of medical school, students may choose a 4-week block in Family Medicine (Director: Dr. Dan Slater) and/or Underserved Medicine (Directors: Drs. Ellen Beck, Michelle Johnson, Sunny Smith). More than 80 of the 120 students take one of these fourth year blocks. Also, in the fourth year, students can take a four-week elective clerkships in Sports Medicine, Inpatient Family Medicine, or Integrative Medicine.

The Primary Care Core Clerkship (PCCC)

This required clerkship is co-directed by Family Medicine (Dr. David Bazzo) and Internal Medicine and provides a weekly primary care clinical experience combined with a monthly clinical skills session for medical students throughout their third year. Together the ACA and PCCC involve over 300 primary care community-based physician preceptors.

Family Medicine Interest Group

Students from all four years, with advisor Dr. Sunny Smith, meet to explore and learn about aspects of the field of Family Medicine.

Independent Study Projects

Students at UCSD SOM must complete an Independent Scholarly Project (ISP) which may be research, a community project or clinically focused. Many students complete their ISP’s with the Division of Family Medicine.


The Division of Family Medicine is creating one of the core courses for the new Bachelors of Science in Public Health (BSPH) degree program for UCSD undergrads. The course (FPMU 50) explores historical and current interactions and achievements and challenges of primary care and public health. It will analyze the impact of common medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes, mental health disorders and other disorders on individual, their families and society.