Technical Standards


All candidates for the M.D. degree must possess the physical and mental skills and abilities necessary to successfully complete the medical school curriculum. To achieve the optimal educational experience, students are required to participate in all phases of the training program.

The study of medicine is not a pure intellectual exercise. Rather, a specific set of minimum physical, mental, emotional and social abilities are needed to be a successful student. Students must possess all of the abilities listed in the five categories below. The use of an intermediary that would, in effect, require a student to rely on someone else's power of observation and/or communication will not be permitted.

I. Observation:

  • Visually observe materials presented in the learning environment including audiovisual presentations, written documents, microbiology cultures, microscopic examination of microorganisms, tissues and gross organs in the normal and pathologic state, and diagnostic images.
  • Observe patients accurately and completely, both at a distance and directly. This requires functional vision, hearing, and sensation.

II. Communication:

  • Effectively speak, write, hear, read and use a keyboard.
  • Perceive non-verbal communications, including facial expression, body language, and affect.
  • Communicate effectively and sensitively with patients and their families via speech as well as reading/writing.
  • Communicate in oral and written form with the healthcare team in an effective, accurate and efficient manner.

III. Motor:

  • Elicit information from patients via palpation, auscultation, and percussion, as well as carry out diagnostic maneuvers.
  • Execute movements reasonably required to provide general medical care and emergency treatment to patients. These skills require coordination of gross and fine motor movements, equilibrium, and sensation.
  • Manipulate equipment and instruments to perform basic laboratory tests and procedures as required to attain curricular goals. (e.g. needles, stethoscope, ophthalmoscope, tongue blades, intravenous equipment, scalpel).

IV. Intellectual/conceptual, Integrative, and Quantitative Abilities:

  • Perform calculations necessary to solve quantitative problems as required by the curriculum.
  • Collect, organize, prioritize, analyze and assimilate large amounts of technically detailed and complex information in a timely fashion. This information will be presented in a variety of educational settings, including lectures, small group discussions, and individual clinical settings. The applicant should be able to analyze, integrate, and apply this information appropriately for the problem solving and decision-making.
  • Apply knowledge and reasoning to solve problems as outlined by the curriculum.
  • Comprehend the three dimensional spatial relationships of structures.
  • Remain awake and alert.

V. Behavioral, Emotional and Social Attributes

  • Possess the emotional health to fully apply his/her/their intellectual skill, exercise good judgment, and to complete all responsibilities attendant to the diagnosis and care of patients.
  • Develop a mature, sensitive and effective relationship with patients and colleagues.
  • Tolerate the physical, mental and emotional stress experienced during training and patient care.
  • Possess qualities of adaptability, flexibility, and the ability to function in the face of uncertainty.
  • Form a compassionate relationship with his/her patients while maintaining appropriate boundaries for a professional relationship.
  • Behave in an ethical and moral manner consistent with professional values and standards.
  • Exhibit sufficient interpersonal skills, knowledge and attitudes to interact positively and sensitively with people from all parts of society, ethnic backgrounds, and belief systems.
  • Cooperate with others and work collaboratively as a team member.

The faculty of the Duke University School of Medicine recognizes its responsibility to present candidates for the M.D. degree who have the knowledge, attitudes and skills to function in a broad variety of clinical situations and to render a wide spectrum of patient care. Candidates for the M.D. degree at Duke will be prepared to enter postgraduate medical education as general physicians able to undertake specialty education.

The Committee of Admissions is responsible for adhering to these technical standards during the selection of medical students.

If you have any questions about this document or whether you meet the standards described above, please contact the office of the Registrar or Dean of Undergraduate Medical Education.