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What are the Differences between a Basic Science and a Clinical Science Program?

Basic science and clinical science are the two most erroneously interchanged terms of the Doctor of Medicine (MD) program. Both courses prepare and train medical students to apply their knowledge in treating patients, preventing diseases, and promoting good health. However, both have many distinct differences. If you are a prospective medical student, understanding the difference between the terms stands important. So, take this opportunity to understand the difference between the two branches of medicine.

What is Basic Science?

The first five semesters of medical school comprise the basic sciences program. Throughout the initial years of the MD program, students participate in a series of intensive classroom lectures. Students on the basic science course undertake the study of the basic structure and function of the human body. The program intends to teach students about the different aspects of human anatomy and acquainti them with types of diseases affecting different parts of it. A basic science program typically precedes the clinical medicine program and provides theoretical support for building clinical skills, which is often fundamental in training doctors.

Here are the basic science subjects typically undertaken during the program:

  • Patient Doctor Relations
  • Histology and Cell Biology
  • Developmental and Gross Anatomy
  • Biostatistics and Epidemiology
  • Physiology
  • Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • Microbiology and Immunology
  • Neuroscience
  • Pathology
  • Pharmacology
  • Clinical Therapeutics
  • Introduction to Clinical Medicine
  • Foundations of Clinical Medicine

After completing the basic science course, students become eligible to sit the USMLE Step 1 exam. These are also the significant topics that can help a medical student pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1. Most importantly, basic science courses also offer a strong foundation to start the clinical medicine program.

What is Clinical Science?

Clinical science is a significant part of the MD program, as it comprises the clinical rotations that offer hands-on experience working with patients in a hospital setting. Clinical sciences are taught under the clinical medicine program during semesters 6 to 10, the final years before earning an MD degree and starting a residency program. The clinical sciences program offers active clinical experience in the following ways:

  • 8-weeks of research modules
  • 42 weeks of core clinical rotations in internal medicine, Obstetrics and Gynecology, pediatrics, surgery, and psychiatry
  • 30 weeks of elective clinical rotation based on the student’s projected specialty

Some of the most popular electives for clinical rotations are as follows:

  • Cardiology
  • Oncology
  • Neurology
  • Endocrinology
  • Nephrology
  • Rheumatology
  • Dermatology
  • Infectious Disease
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Preventive Medicine
  • Allergy and Immunology
  • Anesthesiology
  • Gastroenterology

At the end of the clinical medicine program, students develop a comprehensive knowledge of clinical sciences that can help them appear for the USMLE Step 2 examination, which tests a student’s clinical knowledge and clinical skills. Clinical rotations can expose students to case studies, which enhances students’ preparations for becoming excellent doctors. Moreover, clinical science offers students the opportunity to explore diverse medical specialties.

A medical student must have expertise in both topics to become an excellent doctor. Now that you know the difference between both, you can further plan your studies in medical school.

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