Basic Science

The teaching of basic science is necessary at any medical school, but the way students at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine learn it is innovative. Students are expected not just to listen and learn in lectures, but to be actively involved in the process.

Problem-Based Learning

Students use a technique called problem-based learning, in conjunction with some lectures, to learn basic science across body systems. Students are put into groups of seven that are rotated so that they get to work with different people and personalities. The groups are given a real patient case from the community each week.

Students work together in groups with a facilitator to pull out learning objectives from the case. Mid-week, the groups meet again and present what they have learned, in effect teaching one another. The groups receive more information about the case after their presentations. They again pull out learning objectives to work on and present what they have learned at the end of the week. After the final presentations, students get the opportunity to meet the patient and doctor that were involved in the case. The goal is to remind students that the science they are learning connects them to the diagnosis and treatment of patients down the line.


Students at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine use a multifaceted approach for learning anatomical sciences. Teaching tools include cadaver dissection, virtual anatomy through the Anatomage table, portable ultrasound training, anatomical models, and computer programs.


All the basic sciences fundamental to the learning of medicine are integrated into Phase 1 (Years 1 and 2) and include objectives in anatomy, physiology, histology, biochemistry, genetics, embryology, and immunology. Year 1 focuses on “Normal Structure and Function of the Human Body," approached from an organ systems perspective. Year 2 focuses on “Pathobiology," and will also use an organ systems approach.

Basic science is revisited in Phase 2 (Years 3 and 4) using integrated patient cases and interactive sessions.