Program Overview

Program Overview:  The Duke University School of Medicine Master of Biomedical Sciences is a 10-month program of 38 credits based largely on the School of Medicine MD preclinical curriculum. It prepares students to be highly competitive candidates for medical schools, related health professions, and other biomedical careers. The curriculum integrates graduate level human biological sciences with skill development in critical thinking, communication and teamwork.

Thirty-four credits are from required courses, all of which align with the Association of American Medical Colleges Core Competencies. Program goals are modeled and reinforced through instructional modalities shown to promote academic achievement, critical thinking, scientific inquiry, team skills, capacity for improvement, and cultural competence. These include team-based learning, co-mentored small group proseminars, simulations, critical reflection, and narrative writing. In addition, through training, certification, and service as Emergency Medical Technicians, the program embeds pre-professional students within health care teams as care providers rather than observers.

Courses include three graduate level, highly integrated basic sciences courses created specifically for this curriculum; a weekly small group proseminar; training, certification, and continuity practice as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT-B); Medical Statistics; Evidence Based Clinical Practice; and Health Policy. There are four elective credits, which can be fulfilled by additional courses, research, or practicums. The basic science courses are fast-paced and very similar in scope, content, and rigor to those taken by first-year medical students at Duke. The predominant instructional pedagogy is team-based learning, in which students are responsible for learning didactic content through their own self- study and then applying it within small groups in specific learning activities. The format requires personal responsibility, conscientiousness, time management, critical thinking, and problem-solving in real-time, and commitment to team members and teamwork. Students retrieve, analyze, and debate primary literature from anatomy to clinical problems. They are assessed on multiple choice examinations, narrative writing, standardized patients, peer assessments, oral presentations, critical analysis, and simulations. Our faculty, many of whom also teach in the Duke MD preclinical curriculum, estimate that the MBS curriculum covers 75% of the course content in the MD preclinical curriculum. We would add that the MBS program includes content and coursework not yet present in the Duke MD preclinical curriculum. 

The program features an interprofessional faulty. MBS faculty are professionally degreed in their disciplines and teach in the School of Medicine, Physician Assistant Program, Physical Therapy Program, Nutrition Services, Pharmacology, School of Nursing, Psychology, and Biostatistics. Many hold the Master of Public Health degree. A learning strategist is on the faculty, providing counsel to the executive team and individual assessment and support to the students. Each student will be assigned to a faculty advisor who will participate in the student’s onboarding activities and intake assessment process, guide the development of the student’s required Action Plan, and in partnership with an Office of Health Professions Advising counselor, provide academic guidance throughout the program, including approval of the student’s elective options.

Time Commitment:  Student time commitment is estimated to be, an average, 20-25 hours per week of “programmed” activity and 30-40 hours per week of preparation, study, and co-curricular requirements for a total effort approximating 60-65 hours per week. Program completion requires two semesters beginning in July and ending in May the following year. The program is full time and students must be present in Durham, NC.

Official Grading Policy:  MBS has a rigorous grading policy that reflects that used by Duke University graduate programs. Students are awarded grades of A, A-, B+, B, B-, etc. for most courses and selectives offered by the Master of Biomedical Sciences Program. Grades are not curved and reflect the actual performance of the student. The following courses, with the associated competencies, comprise the curriculum:

Curriculum:  The curriculum has been mapped to the AAMC Competencies:

Science Competencies:

  • Human Structure (cadaveric anatomy with students performing all dissections).
  • Cellular Sciences (biochemistry, cell biology, genetics, pharmacology, immunology and tissue histology)
  • Organ Systems (physiology, embryology, microbiology, pathology, and neuroscience)

Quantitative Reasoning & Critical Thinking:

  • Medical Statistics

Critical Thinking & Cultural Competence:

  • Health Systems and Health Policy (policy, healthcare disparities, quality, population health)

All Interpersonal & Intrapersonal Competencies & Human Behavior

  • Essentials Health Practices and Professional Development Seminar (small group longitudinal seminar facilitated by interprofessional faculty, that meets weekly with the same two small group faculty facilitators to address issues such as identity formation, communication, ethics, cultural humility, resiliency.)
  • Evidence Based Clinical Practice (evidence-based medicine, critical analysis of current scientific literature)

Science Competencies

  • Enhanced Emergency Medical Technician-Basic, (training and state certification plus simulation)
  • EMT Clinicals (clinical work as part of the health care team; EMT-B as part of Duke Emergency Medical Services, the Duke University Hospital Emergency Room, and Duke Urgent Care)

Service Orientation, Oral Communication, Science Competencies, Critical Thinking,

  • Selectives: Courses, Research, Community Engagement

Students accepted into the MBS program who plan to apply to medical or another health professions school concurrently with their MBS year will be offered post-matriculation/pre-orientation advising.