Department of Pathology

Sophomore Medical Students

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The medical Pathology/Pathophysiology courses I (Fall Semester) and II (Spring Semester) at New York Medical College were designed by Reinhard E. Zachrau, M.D., Professor of Pathology, and are conducted by Dr. Zachrau and faculty of the Departments of Pathology, Medicine, Pediatrics, Community and Preventive Medicine, Neurology, Surgery, and Dermatology, among others. Beginning with the 1992/1993 academic year, these courses have been characterized by an approach to teaching and learning that places enhanced emphasis on

  • Allocation of our students' time to active study rather than passive learning, with reduction of conventional lectures by approximately 70%
  • Faculty-guided independent learning
  • Student-faculty contact in laboratories and small-group problem-solving exercises
  • Participation in an autopsy and subsequent independent preparation of a comprehensive report with an analysis of the relation between clinical observations and pathological findings
  • Utilization of electronic resources as appropriate in the primary learning process and for case studies requiring integrated application of information derived from multiple sources
  • Collaborative efforts ("team work"), not just in conjunction with the exercises but in studies overall.

While our students certainly receive guidance and supervision from the faculty, they are – aside from prescribed exercises – encouraged to utilize their time and the provided learning resources in the way they judge most effective for themselves. Mastery of the subject is the ultimate goal (mastery denoting more than mere passing of multiple choice examinations, of course). The scheduled exercises and examinations provide "litmus tests" for our students to determine whether their chosen approach to learning the material has been as effective as they had expected it to be.

The described course format raises the level of the students' responsibility in the learning process – which is one of our objectives. It also raises the level of pride students can take in their achievements. Above all, our hope and expectation are that our students' active participation in the learning process now will prepare them for the demands of life-long learning, which will be required of them.

The experiences of both students and faculty over the past several years suggest that this teaching format is beneficial in a variety of aspects, including – but certainly not limited to – performance on both internal and external examinations. The last six classes completed our program with cumulative passing rates of 100,100,100, 98, 98, and 97%, respectively. Furthermore, the mean scores achieved by these classes in Step 1 of the USMLE were all significantly above the national reference values. Aside from these numerical assessments – and most gratifying – the feedback from our students after their exposure to the challenges of the clinical clerkships has been almost invariably favorable, as has been the feed-back from the clinical faculty working with our third- and fourth-year students.

The Pathology/Pathophysiology courses I and II cover all major general and systemic pathology topics, the latter with integration of correlated clinical aspects of disease taught by clinical faculty.

Basic textbooks, which the students are required to obtain, are supplemented by annually updated detailed syllabi provided by the faculty of the Departments of Pathology and Medicine, which specify for each major learning block

  • Objectives stating what the students are expected to master at the end of each learning block and including reading and, if applicable, case study assignments
  • Clinico-pathological correlation/laboratory exercise materials
  • A perspectives text with accompanying pictorial materials, which is reviewed with the students by the faculty member responsible for the respective learning block
  • Case-based materials for the problem-solving exercises.

For minor learning blocks, either objectives or, when applicable, lecture notes are provided.

In addition, pathology-related software is made available on the New York Medical College Intranet. Provided software includes, aside from faculty-authored materials,

  • Interactive Pathology case studies, covering a wide range of topics
  • Interactive clinical management exercises in Infectious Disease
  • Ten interactive programs addresses topics of Nutrition in Medicine
  • The Harvey ("Umedic") Multimedia Curriculum in Cardiology software for use independently or in conjunction with the Harvey Cardiology Training Mannequins
  • Specific "Exercises with Harvey" for second-year medical students focusing on the normal heart and aortic and mitral stenosis and insufficiency.

Laboratory sessions comprise clinico-pathological correlation exercises, topic reviews, gross specimen reviews, a microscopic examination and diagnosis and a urinalysis exercise, all conducted by one faculty member per group of approximately 20 students.
Problem-solving exercises are conducted by one faculty member per group of 10 or 11 students. In these exercises, scheduled at the end of a related learning block, the students are challenged to apply their newly acquired knowledge, supplemented by additional resources including literature searches, to specific problems.

As indicated earlier, it is a Pathology/Pathophysiology course requirement that students observe and participate in an autopsy, in groups of four to eight students, and prepare a written report, which must include

  • An abstract of the patient's clinical records, including symptoms, physical findings, laboratory tests, clinical course, and the final clinical diagnosis with the considered cause of death
  • A description of the autopsy procedure
  • A description of the findings on gross examination of the organs
  • A description of the microscopic findings from the prepared slides
  • The final pathological diagnoses
  • A discussion of the clinico-pathologic correlation, i.e., history, clinical findings and clinical course correlated with the pathologic findings, including a discussion of etiology, pathogenesis, appropriateness of therapy, and a succinct discussion of the major disease process encountered.

Each written autopsy report is graded, followed by an individual, autopsy-related quiz conducted with each student by senior faculty (i.e., Drs. Zachrau and Argani). The combined grade becomes a component of the final grade for Pathology/Pathophysiology II.

Three integrated in-house examinations, i.e., including questions prepared by both pathology and clinical faculty, are administered per semester. In addition, a National Board-type comprehensive Pathology examination ("Mini-Board") is given as the final examination at the end of the academic year.


Basic Sciences Building
Valhalla, New York 10595