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Human Biology and Disease

Summer course: April 30 (orientation) – May 24, 2021, 8 am until 10 am each day (Schedule)
Credit: 1-3 hours
Pre-Registration Begins: December 15, 2020 by emailing Stephanie Gober at:


Course organizers
The course has been organized by Dr. Mark de Caestecker MBBS, PhD, and Dr. Matt Luther MD, MSCI, physician scientists who direct the Vanderbilt Program for Molecular Medicine (VPMM). Dr. Bradley Richmond, MD, PhD, will be a co-director on the course. Stephanie Gober is a Senior Administrative Assistant in the Department of Pathology Microbiology and Immunology as well as the course coordinator.

Please address any enquiries about the course and registration to Stephanie Gober at:

Course Description
The aim of this course is to provide students with a comprehensive, organ-based overview, of human biology and disease pathophysiology from a clinical perspective. What distinguishes the proposed course from any other courses or programs that are currently offered at Vanderbilt, is that it will be comprehensive, covering all the major organ systems in the human body, and will be taught by clinicians from a clinical, rather than a basic science, perspective. There will be 15 topics taught covering 16 organ systems, each over 2-hour blocks coordinated by a physician or physician scientist involved in treating patients with common diseases affecting that organ system. Students will be instructed to register with UpToDate and/or Medscape, on-line portals for students, physicians and healthcare professionals, and use to read about and write brief reports on clinical topics being discussed each day. The last session of each block will be in a case report format in which instructors bring along a patient suffering from the disease being discussed, so that students can develop an intimate understanding of what it is like to suffer from the disease being discussed during that teaching block.

To complete three credit hours, students will be expected to attend 15 mornings of didactic and interactive teaching blocks over the three-week Human Biology and Disease immersion course. Some students may elect to attend 5 contiguous morning blocks for 1 credit hour each (1 week) rather than complete the whole course. See the Schedule for information about topics being taught for each of the modules There are no prerequisites for attending this course other than being a PhD student or post-doctoral fellow enrolled in one of the biomedical sciences programs at Vanderbilt University. The course will be graded based on attendance and on completion of daily entries for each of the topic areas using a time stamped, on-line course management system.

Grading and attendance
The course will be given a letter grade (and will count for quality hours)
based on attendance and on completion of daily entries for each of the topic areas using a time stamped, on-line course management system that has been developed for the Vanderbilt Program of Molecular Medicine. These will include a brief entries before each of the daily sessions summarizing their reading about the condition being presented that day (based on their reading on Medscape and/or Up to Date). These entries will be approved or rejected by the course organizers, Drs. Mark de Caestecker, Matt Luther, and Bradley Richmond (rejections will be accompanied by feedback). Students will be allowed no more than four missed sessions for excused and unexcused absences (<25% of blocks) to complete the course requirements. A maximum of two unexcused absences will be allowed over the whole course. This may include one unexcused absence on first day of the course (allowing for a small number of the students who are unclear about instructions from the start of the course), and one unexcused absence due to misunderstanding about course requirements later. It will be the responsibility of the student to find out from the course organizers what are acceptable reasons for excused absences if they are unclear about this. Examples of excused absences would include health problems, family emergencies, but not vacations or attendance at a friend’s wedding. While conflict with research activities will generally not be acceptable as an excused absence, first-year students who have just joined their lab may be inexperienced regarding how long procedures take.  They will be allowed to miss a maximum of two sessions for compelling research reasons (with a note from their PI).  Examples may include team-based lab procedures (e.g. a lab protein prep or animal experiment), an important lab meeting, required seminars/presentations, or receipt/processing of time-sensitive clinical specimens.  In addition, unless there are exceptional circumstances (as judged by the course organizers), an excused absence will require that the student enters the reason for his/her absence into the course management system before the topic block starts. An excused absence submitted after the block will be considered unexcused. Finally, excused absences must be accompanied by approved entries into the course management system by the student based on reading about the conditions being discussed on that day. These entries will be approved or rejected by the organizers.

Finally, for those students taking only one block, they may have no more than one unexcused or excused absence; two blocks no more than one unexcused with more than two excused or unexcused absences.

Course requirements
As patients from VUMC will be participating in HuBD, all students participating in the course have to take and pass the on-line HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) training, and provide Stephanie Gober with a copy of their HIPAA training certificate before being able to participate in the course (both for credit and audit).

Reading material
Before starting the course, visit and bookmark Medscape and/or Up To Date. You can register for both through the Eskind Library. Select “medical student” using the link below to have access for background reading throughout the course:

The Eskind Library

This resource provides an excellent on-line resource for the background to the clinical cases and diseases that will be taught during the course.


Past Course Materials