Essential Principles of Medicine Units


The first week of Essential Principles of Medicine is dedicated to pharmacology, which is the study of how drugs work. You will learn how drugs affect the body and how the body affects drugs. You will learn to appreciate that drugs also have undesirable affects and you will develop an understanding of the relationship between desired and undesirable effects. Finally, you will develop an appreciation for the necessity of regulation and oversight and be afforded insight into the problems inherent in developing new therapeutics.

Unit Leader: Christopher Triggle, PhD


Information that has become available from genetic and genomic discoveries has the potential to revolutionize the way that physicians and other healthcare providers evaluate, diagnose and treat their patients. To harness the power of these discoveries, students of medicine need to understand fundamental genetic concepts of DNA biology, the chromosomal basis of inheritance, how genes are regulated, how genes operate and interact with the environment, and the role of genes and chromosomes in both rare and common diseases. The genetics module will provide you with a foundation and a context for material covered in later modules of EPOM and will also serve as an introduction to key concepts in clinical medicine, public health and medical research.

Unit Leader: Lotfi Chouchane, PhD, DSc

Cells, Tissues and Control Systems

The third unit of Essential Principles of Medicine is Cells, Tissues, and Control Systems which focuses on the structure and function of cells, how they communicate, and the events that occur in early development. The emphasis is on basic cell functions, including: the cell as the fundamental unit of living organisms; the transport functions of the cell membrane; the importance of electrolyte and water homeostasis; the communication within and among cells to regulate their function – whether by direct interactions, by electrical signaling within a cell, or by chemical communication; the synthesis and secretion of proteins and the enforcement of quality control; the morphological appearance of cells and the extracellular matrix and cell motility; which leads to the final section on early development.

Unit Leader: Nasrin Mesaeli, PhD

Metabolism and Nutrition

The metabolism and nutrition unit is presented in the middle of the Essential Principles of Medicine course. In this unit, you will discuss how the body handles carbohydrates, fat, proteins, and nucleic acids to generate and store energy. You will learn about anabolic and catabolic pathways, as well as the variety of chemical interconversions through which, for example, molecules such as glucose are converted into ATP or into a form from which energy can be derived during periods of fasting. The unit will conclude with a discussion of the serious health consequences when metabolic pathways fail or when their regulation is affected; metabolic dysregulation, which characterizes diseases such as diabetes and obesity, is increasingly relevant to an understanding of cancer.

Unit Leader: Moncef Ladjimi, PhD

Injury, Infection, Immunity and Repair

The injury, infection, immunity, and repair learning unit introduces the principles of general pathology, immunology, and microbiology so that students can appreciate the individual disciplines, yet also see how they are integrated within the context of disease. In this regard, the weekly PBL case introduces the theme of the week, which includes topics from the three core disciplines. These topics are then developed and expanded upon by each discipline in lectures, labs, and small-group discussions. In addition to the core disciplines, the study of pharmacology continues with an introduction to antibiotic, antiviral, and anti-fungal drug classes. Finally, some specific pharmacology is presented in relation to the PBL exercises.

Unit Leader: Ali Sultan, MD, PhD


The last week of the course deals with neoplasia, a topic that includes benign tumors, pre-malignant lesions, and malignant cancers. You will learn how genetic and environmental factors contribute to cancer risk, how tumor growth is initiated, and how tumor cells gain characteristics that allow progression to malignancy. Current models of the biology underlying metastasis and the role of stem cells in tumorigenesis will be discussed. Major principles underlying conventional and more novel cancer therapies will be presented, together with the promise and challenges of precision cancer medicine. The week will conclude with a discussion of the public health issues raised by cancer and the huge potential for improved cancer prevention. Cancer is chosen as the final topic in this course for two reasons: first, because of its paramount importance as a cause of mortality; and second, because it exemplifies a disease whose understanding and treatment requires knowledge of a broad range of disciplines. These include genetics, genomics, cell and tissue biology, metabolism, inflammation, biochemistry, and pharmacology. Hence, the subject draws upon all the previous learning units of this segment and re-emphasizes their relevance in the battle against disease.

Unit Leader: Ali Sultan, MD, PhD


The gross anatomy unit of the Essential Principles of Medicine is scheduled for one or two afternoon sessions throughout the first semester of the medical curriculum. It is organized around a regional approach to anatomy, but time is also spent throughout the course to review information from a systemic standpoint. The regional approach is divided into the following three sections: (1) Back, Shoulder Region, Upper Extremity and Thorax; (2) Abdomen, Pelvis, Perineum, and Lower Extremity; and (3) Head and Neck.The unit is conducted by lectures and full body dissection. Body imaging using MRI's, CT's and plain radiographs, are also an integral part of the course. Clinical faculty are involved in teaching during the dissection laboratory sessions, thus emphasizing the clinical correlations pertinent to the area of dissection. At the end of this course, students will be able to analyze, integrate and apply relevant anatomical and embryological information pertaining to the clinical settings essential for appropriate patient care.

Unit Leader: Avelin Malyango, MD

Patient Care and Physicianship

The overarching goal of the patient care and physicianship (PCP) unit is to help you develop fundamental knowledge, skills and attitudes related to the care of patients and the role of the physician. Specifically, you will learn the basics of clinical evaluation, the doctor-patient relationship, biopsychosocial diversity, reflective practice, and related topics. The PCP unit is integrated with the EPOM science units and with more advanced skills in future semesters.

Unit Leader: Stella Major, MBBS