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Double Helix Curriculum—Translations and Transitions

Double Helix Curriculum Logo

Over four years, the “Double Helix Curriculum—Translations and Transitions” teaches the scientific foundations and clinical medicine and how they translate to exceptional care. The scientific foundations of medicine over the four phases of the DHC-TT include basic, social, and informational sciences. Earlier in the curriculum the basic sciences are emphasized and as the curriculum progresses, the social and informational sciences become the more prominent scientific foundations content. Students develop communication and clinical skills quickly with our early clinical exposure. Drawing upon the University motto of “Meliora—ever better”, Meliora in Medicine is a curriculum thread across the four years that includes our Medical Humanities and three content pillars: Collaborative Practice, Technology in Medicine, and Professional Identity Formation. Ample elective time enables each student to tailor their experiences to meet educational and career goals. Guided by our educational program objectives and emphasizing Rochester’s Biopsychosocial Model, we educate and train outstanding physicians who are prepared to practice medicine caring for diverse patients in a dynamic, changing healthcare environment.

Using an iPad delivery platform, instructional methods include Problem Based Learning, Team Based Learning, large and small group skills sessions. Standardized patients and simulation provide direct hands on experiences. Clinical options in urban, rural, ambulatory and inpatient settings provide rich, diverse clinical experiences.

The Double Helix Curriculum—Translations and Transitions highlights and facilitates the transition of accepted applicant to medical student to physician entering graduate medical education. Our Advisory Dean program provides students with access to a myriad of resources, academic and career counseling, wellness and resilience, and professional development. Facilitating the transitions begins with orientation and continues with defined activities throughout the curriculum culminating in our specialty specific competencies and capstone course in the final phase.

Our graduates are successful in careers encompassing academic medicine, rural medicine, research, administration, and community advocacy.

Phase I

  • Orientation facilitates students getting acquainted with each other with professionalism cases and team building.

  • Human Structure and Function integrates anatomy, physiology, histology and embryology.

  • Medical Evidence and Inquiry instructs in biostatistics, epidemiology, information acquisition and research design.

  • Introduction to Clinical Medicine teaches interviewing, communication, and physical examination skills.

  • Molecules to Cells integrates biochemistry, genetics and nutrition.

  • Pharmacology teaches pharmacokinetics and dynamics highlighting drugs commonly used in primary care.

  • Host Defense explores the body’s defenses and the microbes that challenge it. Pathology instruction begins in this course.

  • Foundations of Biopsychosocial Practice includes full patient evaluations, screening and preventive care.

  • Meliora in Medicine oversees the vertical and horizontal integration of Medical Humanities and early content in the pillars.

Phase II

  • Mind Brain Behavior combines neurosciences, neuro and psychopathology and pharmacology related to neurologic and psychiatric conditions.

  • Disease Process and Therapeutics—Cardiopulmonary and Renal combines the diseases, conditions, diagnostic and therapeutic approaches including pharmacology and pathology to cardiac, pulmonary and renal systems.

  • Disease Process and Therapeutics uses a block model to instruct on the diseases, conditions, diagnostic and therapeutic approaches including pharmacology and pathology to endocrine, rheumatologic, oncology, hematology, and other systems.

  • Women’s Health explores normal processes, conditions and diseases and their management across the age spectrum in women.

  • Disorders of Childhood covers common conditions seen in children integrating the embryologic and physiologic basis with diagnosis and therapy.

  • Primary Care Clerkship is a core, longitudinal, continuity clerkship where working with physicians in adult and pediatric ambulatory practices is supplemented with core didactics and skills sessions.

  • Meliora in Medicine oversees the vertical and horizontal integration of Medical Humanities and early content in the pillars.

  • Transition to Licensure - six weeks of guided independent study with a personalized study plan and progress monitoring facilitate success with Step 1—necessary for licensure.

Phase III

  • Surgery Clerkship provides two three-week experiences in different surgical disciplines.

  • Medicine Clerkship provides two four-week experiences in different hospital settings.

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology Clerkship five week experiences offers gynecology, obstetrics and ambulatory experience.

  • Pediatrics Clerkship includes experiences caring for children in both ambulatory and hospital settings.

  • Neurology Clerkship offers two two-week rotations in different areas of neurology

  • Psychiatry Clerkship is a four week experience offered different psychiatry settings and includes experience in the psychiatric emergency department.

  • Scientific and Social Foundations of Medicine courses are three separate one-week courses that complement the clinical clerkship with basic science content, Medical Humanities, and content from the pillars.

  • Meliora in Medicine in phase three oversees the integration of content from the Medical Humanities and pillars in required courses and clerkships to provide vertical and horizontal integration of this content across the curriculum.

  • Elective Weeks:  There are 29 weeks of elective to be completed between Phases 3 and 4.

Phase IV

  • Surgical Subspecialty Selective allows students to choose two weeks from a variety of experiences which can be done in Phase 3 or Phase 4.

  • Emergency Medicine Clerkship is a four week experience in Level I trauma facility and can be done in Phase 3 or Phase 4.

  • Family Medicine Clerkship is a four week clerkship working with a physician in practice with self-directed didactics and this can be done in Phase 3 or Phase 4.

  • Acting Internship (formerly called Sub-internship) allows students to function at the level of an intern in a variety of different specialties.

  • Critical Care is a two week selective where students care for patients in one of many intensive care units.

  • Improving Health Systems is a three week course that brings the class together to look at projects and strategies to address research and quality needs of a health system.

  • Successful Interning is a capstone course that provides hands on and didactic final preparation for internship.

  • Elective Weeks: There are 29 weeks of elective to be completed between Phases 3 and 4.

Meliora in Medicine is a course in the first two years and a thread throughout the four years of the Double Helix Curriculum: Transitions and Translations.  Including Medical Humanities, the thread emphasizes three pillar content areas, each with specific topics and activities occurring at developmentally appropriate times in the curriculum.

Meliora in Medicine Table

At the University of Rochester, we use our expertise and unique offerings to foster student’s passions, optimizing how they will deliver health care. Our Elective Pathways are mentored programs that run in conjunction with the Double Helix Curriculum—Translations and Transitions. Pathways provide opportunity to work with like-minded students and faculty to explore nuances, address needs of underserved, create curriculum, and institute policy in areas of interest. We offer five different elective pathways:

Deaf Health Pathway

For students with interests in the health, language and culture of the Deaf community, this student-centered curriculum provides an appreciation for the health disparities between the Deaf community and the general population and greater awareness of unique Deaf health needs.  Drawing on the large deaf population in Rochester, the pathway provides engagement with the community with linguistic and cultural immersion to prepare graduates to better care for Deaf patients.

Global Health Pathway

Students gain additional knowledge and skills in the health problems and solutions of populations that transcend socioeconomic and ethnic status and national borders.  Didactic lecture series, direct experience and independent projects combine with volunteer work and patient interactions to foster compassion and appreciation for the plights of underserved populations.  Participants develop a sense of global health advocacy, appreciating the role of the physician as an agent for change in community and global health.

Medical Education Pathway

Preparing students to be academic medical educators, the pathway provides knowledge in educational theory and develops skills in teaching.  Activities include serving as a problem based learning tutor, leading a small group, developing learning objectives and delivering a lecture.  In addition students write high quality examination questions, perform assessments, and provide feedback.

LatinX Health Pathway

The pathway provides an enriched learning experience over the four years of medical school for those students with intermediate and advanced Spanish language proficiency interested in developing language, cultural and clinical skills to work with Spanish speaking patients, families, and communities.

Medical Humanities and Bioethics Pathway

The Medical Humanities and Bioethics Pathway provides medical students with an enriched experience in medical humanities and bioethics throughout their four years of medical school. Students have diversified opportunities in a variety of clinical and research activities, courses and electives, as well as special events and competitive awards.

Read more information on the Pathways.

Assessment in the ‘Double Helix Curriculum – Translations and Transitions’ mirrors the school’s Biopsychosocial approach to patient care and education and strives to optimize the capabilities of all students by providing motivation and direction for continuous learning, reflective practice, personal improvement, and professional accountability.

At Rochester, we believe that assessment is an ongoing and interactive process that drives student learning and development.  To this end, we provide students with multiple opportunities for direct observation, feedback, and assessment of progress in key knowledge, skills, and behavioral areas that are linked to the school’s overall educational objectives.

Throughout their medical training, students will receive formative and summative feedback in required courses, clinical experiences, and end-of-phase assessments.  Other defining components of assessment in the ‘Double Helix Curriculum – Translations and Transitions’ include:

  • Development of Individual Learning Plans (ILP)
  • Small group/team feedback
  • Standardized patient feedback
  • Formalized peer feedback


Students interested in careers in medical science undertake training in both clinical medicine and research. The Medical Scientist Training Program  (MSTP) at Rochester is funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health, and provides an outstanding faculty and a wide diversity of research training opportunities found only in our nation's leading biomedical research and clinical training centers.


In conjunction with the university’s Simon Business School, we offer a dual degree M.D./M.B.A. program in Healthcare Management.  Matriculants complete their first year of study at the Simon School then begin medical school taking electives in their final year that apply to both degrees.

M.D./M.S. in Medical Neurobiology

The Masters of Science degree combines coursework in the medical curriculum with experimental studies in preparation for careers in research and education.


The M.P.H. is offered in association with our Department of Public Health Sciences and some students have chosen to do this during a year out through our Academic Research Track..

M.D./M.S. in Medical Humanities

The Masters of Science degree in Medical Humanities provides a foundation in the use of perspectives and tools from humanities and arts to study the human contexts of health care.

M.D./Combined Masters

These programs in basic and translational sciences are available to medical students by special arrangement and can often be done through the Academic Research Track.

Please visit the Admissions Dual/Joint Degrees page for more information.