About the Duke Curriculum

The Duke University School of Medicine's Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) curriculum is unique. Students learn the core basic sciences in the first year and complete core clinical clerkships in the second year.

Students devote 10 to 12 months to scholarly investigation and fulfill elective rotations in the third and fourth years. By condensing the traditionally structured training from four years into three, Duke's M.D. program provides students ample opportunity to pursue their own independent interests.

Features of the Doctor of Medicine Curriculum

  • Four years dedicated to the exploration of medicine from a Patient FIRST perspective that embodies our core values of humanism, professionalism, diversity and inclusion, and lifelong learning 
  • A compact one-year basic science curriculum that integrates core biomedical content in the context of clinical patient care
  • A blended learning model that utilizes technology to deliver core content while maximizing in-person time for integration and synthesis and team development
  • An entire year dedicated to an in-depth exploration of an area of scholarly interest across a range of scientific disciplines in order to become change agents in the future of health care
  • Clinical experiences across numerous general and specialized fields by some of the top health care providers in their fields
  • Mentorship of students by faculty and student leaders in all facets of the learning process
  • Implementation of a standardized and valid assessment of progress, carefully and thoughtfully evaluating the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and attitudes appropriate to the goals of each student as a future physician


Curriculum Innovation


Duke University School of Medicine MD Program is launching a new “patient first” curriculum that puts students in the clinic earlier and trains them in social determinants of health, data science, and leadership.


Learn More About Curriculum Innovation


Curriculum Schedule

Patient FIRST Curriclum Schedule













Download the Curriculum Schedule

Text Version of the Curriculum Schedule

Goals and Objectives

Overall Goals

  • Develop physician scholars through a rigorous scholarly experience in biomedically related research.
  • Develop skills for scholarly investigation, pursuit of discovery, and transmission of knowledge to others, including principles in research and clinical practice.
  • Incorporate ethical principles in research and ethical practice.
  • Apply skills in the pursuit of life-long learning.


  • Method of monitoring objectives is indicated in parentheses.
  • At the beginning of the Third Year, complete a research proposal acceptable to Mentor and Study Program Director; obtain the appropriate approvals (tracked by Third Year).
  • Adhere to relevant institutional policies and procedures regarding research involving human subjects and animals complete online research related modules including IRB/IACUC modules (tracked by OCA).
  • Design research strategies appropriate to chosen area (mentor evaluation, thesis).
  • Daily work in research environment under supervision of a mentor for > 10 months, personally collecting and/or analyzing data (mentor evaluations).
  • Review and critically assess literature pertaining to a chosen topic (mentor evaluation, thesis).
  • Determine what data exist relative to a clinical question or formal hypothesis (mentor evaluation).
  • Execute a research plan for data collection and organize data for analysis under supervision of mentor (mentor evaluation).
  • Use appropriate statistical methods to analyze data and interpret scientific literature (mentor evaluation; successful completion of QMDM-II course).
  • Collaborate with other individuals as part of the research process and attribute appropriately the contributions of others to the project (mentor evaluation; thesis).
  • Interpret and report findings in a thesis following prescribed guidelines, appropriately citing relevant work by others (thesis).
  • Present results orally and in poster form to an audience of colleagues (Third Year).
  • Present research at the mandatory Duke School of Medicine Student Research Symposium (MedSym) on the first Friday in August (Third Year).
  • Complete official Third Year Committee evaluation of research experience (Third Year).
  • Interact professionally with faculty and staff (mentor evaluation).
  • Meet all deadlines successfully (Third Year).