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Medical Education

Third Year Clerkship

Goals and Objectives

The aims of surgical education in the third and fourth years of our medical school are to:

  • Acquire a body of knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary for the recognition and management of patients with diseases that may necessitate evaluation by a surgeon.
  • Become familiar with the principles, clinical reasoning, techniques and tools used by surgeons.
  • Observe and adopt the attitudes and attributes that promote good patient relations and management. These include, but are not limited to: patient education, emotional support, rehabilitation, and ethical, legal and financial issues.

During the fourth year of medical school, each student will have an additional four weeks of surgical experience which will supplement much of what is learned in the third-year as well as providing a much more "procedure-oriented" experience.

The required experience in surgery has been developed to meet the most recent requirements of the LCME. Though they are designed to provide identical educational opportunities at all the campuses in terms of educational content and modes of evaluation, a variety of clinical experiences are likely to occur at the different hospitals.

Student Objectives

The format of the third-year clerkship provides an eight- week course in the surgical sciences designed to develop knowledge about diseases that may be treated by surgeons. The clerkship permits the student to develop all necessary skills to acquire future knowledge independently and to develop the clinical decision making skills required by all physicians. Acquisition of technical skills is not emphasized; however opportunities for technical development are available in the fourth-year advanced clerkship.

The design of the third- year clerkship shifts emphasis from traditional surgical education including lectures, ward work, and long hours in the operating room unto students assuming a greater role in their self-education. Teaching sessions are case-based, requiring student preparation prior to each session and active participation in the session itself. Faculty members serve as facilitators to help guide the discussion of the cases presented.

Four major educational assumptions provide the foundation for the clerkship experience:

  • Learning is a process of active inquiry with the initiative residing in the learner. Therefore, students are expected to function as adult learners as they seek out information and educational opportunities.
  • Learning must be a lifelong process stimulated by the desire to provide superior medical care.
  • Mastery of the core competencies required in the Clerkships is essential for practice as a competent physician, regardless of career focus.
  • Students are expected to demonstrate high levels of competence in applying required knowledge to clinical problem-solving, implementing a reasonable management plan, and displaying the highest degree of professionalism.


  • Obtain appropriate history and physical exam for patients with symptoms requiring surgical referral
  • Develop a differential diagnosis and treatment plan for patients with symptoms that commonly require surgical referral including an understanding and mastery of the basic skills required to order and to interpret commonly used labs and studies
  • Demonstrate basic knowledge of strategies to identify, assess, and manage life-threatening surgical emergencies
  • Demonstrate basic knowledge of strategies to assess risk, and to prevent, identify and treat post-operative complications
  • Demonstrate basic skills in performing routine technical procedures commonly required on a surgical service while demonstrating basic sterile technique
  • Recognize appropriate consultation resources, both medical and non-medical, and demonstrate an awareness of available community resources
  • Demonstrate basic knowledge of altered structure and function (pathology and pathophysiology) of the body and its major organ systems that are seen in various surgical diseases
  • Demonstrate the basic knowledge required to assess and treat pain, and ameliorating suffering
  • Recognize the importance of cost- effective health care, quality assurance, and practice guidelines in today's health care market
  • Observe and adopt the attitudes and attributes that promote effective patient and professional relationships, including honesty, integrity, and compassion.
  • Demonstrate effective communication with patients, patient's families and colleagues