Penn State College of Medicine MD students research adaptive immune response during class in the University Park Curriculum on Aug. 29, 2018. Three students wearing medical coats are seen looking downward at something on a table. A whiteboard filled with notes is visible in the background.

MD Program: University Park Curriculum

Medical Education at University Park

Penn State College of Medicine has a tradition of excellence in education that is scientifically and clinically rigorous with a deep foundation in scholarship and humanistic care.

Building on our experience, and benefiting from the resources offered at University Park, we invite you to learn in an environment that fosters inter-professional team skills, curiosity and a commitment to the calling of medicine.

Learn more about University Park at one of our "Closer Look" information sessions.

Learn more about Penn State College of Medicine's University Park Curriculum in this video.

View accessible video with audio description and transcript here.

About the Curriculum

Patient-based Experiences

Immersion with patients and health care systems from the first days of medical school, integrated with active small group discussions, will drive your professional development as you explore the basic and clinical sciences, health systems science and the health humanities.

Individualized Mentoring

Our small class size allows for one-on-one mentoring from our core faculty as well as longitudinal learning relationships with a diverse group of health professionals in our clinical practice and community service sites. This entire program of individualized “coaching” will ensure you are able to take full advantage of your experiential learning opportunities.

The Centre Medical Science Building in State College is one place where Penn State College of Medicine's University Park Curriculum MD students study. The image shows the front of the building in the sunlight, and the building's sign is visible.
The Centre Medical Science Building in State College is one place where Penn State College of Medicine's University Park Curriculum MD students study.

Experiential Learning

We all learn best when we can connect skills and knowledge to our own experience. The University Park Curriculum is designed for you to anchor and motivate your learning in the patients and healthcare communities that you encounter, supported by colleagues, faculty and ready access to the rich resources of the College of Medicine and Penn State.

Community Engagement

You will collaborate with patients, community representatives and systems sites to learn and develop community-based solutions that improve healthcare outcomes.

A Culture of Respect and Humanistic Care

Penn State College of Medicine was the first medical school in the nation to have a Department of Humanities and we remain committed to fostering the development of humanistic, curious health care professionals. The University Park Curriculum has been specifically designed to support and enhance the role of the health humanities through patient experiences, integrated small group reflection, and faculty mentorship.

In this video, Penn State College of Medicine students talk about the University Park Curriculum.

View accessible video with audio description and transcript here.

Why the University Park Curriculum?

The University Park Curriculum has been developed to build on the strong tradition of the Penn State College of Medicine, recognizing the unique opportunities provided by the combination of:

  • a community-based health care system;
  • a diverse, research-intensive university; and
  • medical school faculty dedicated to creating innovative and meaningful educational programs.

The full integration of the basic and clinical sciences with health systems science and health humanities, along with community engagement and active, experiential learning strategies, form the centerpiece of the educational mission of the University Park Curriculum.

I chose to come to University Park because I was searching for a curriculum that combined collaborative learning, early patient interaction and close mentorship. I have found that this program checks all those boxes while also providing a support network of faculty and fellow students who are eager to listen and share advice. At a small campus, everyone is rooting for each other’s success.

- Michelle Le, Class of 2023 co-president

Applying to the University Park Curriculum

How do you select the group of first-year students for the University Park Curriculum track?

We invite all Penn State College of Medicine applicants interested in the University Park Curriculum Track to indicate this on the secondary application. Those interested applicants who are invited for interviews will be able to meet UP students and faculty and participate in admission activities specific to the University Park Regional Campus. We believe this experience will enable interested students to better understand the unique features of the University Park Curriculum and help the selection committee evaluate how the applicant might fit into its small, team-oriented, self-directed educational setting. The College of Medicine then extends offers to the selected students.

When will you make a decision about whether I have been selected?

We anticipate making offers to candidates during March and April of each year for the following summer.

How soon should I make my decision to attend if I am offered a position in the University Park Curriculum?

We recommend that you accept your position and provide a deposit as soon as you have decided that Penn State College of Medicine’s University Park Curriculum is your choice for your medical school education.

If I am offered a position in the University Park Curriculum but decide not to choose it, will my decision affect my acceptance into Penn State College of Medicine’s central curriculum in Hershey?

No. All students offered admission to the University Park Curriculum have already been accepted to Penn State College of Medicine’s central curriculum. Declining an offer for the University Park Curriculum will not change the acceptance you already have to Penn State College of Medicine’s central curriculum in Hershey.

Program Overview

Am I eligible to receive a scholarship if I am selected to study in the University Park Curriculum?

Incoming first-year medical students receive a $10,000 University Park scholarship for each year of medical school.

Will I still be eligible for external scholarships?

Students may apply for additional internal and external scholarship opportunities. Financial aid eligibility is based on need.

How many students are currently enrolled in the University Park Curriculum?

For academic year 2020-2021, approximately 48 College of Medicine students will be based at University Park – 12 students in each class.

When does the academic year begin?

The academic year begins in mid-July. For 2021-2022, the year begins the week of July 12, 2021.

Will I receive the same MD degree as my peers in the Hershey Curriculum upon graduation from medical school?

Yes, there is only one Penn State College of Medicine. All College of Medicine students, whether based in Hershey or University Park, graduate with the same Penn State College of Medicine degree.

If I am in Penn State College of Medicine’s University Park Curriculum, which has a new curriculum in place, will my application for residencies be well-received by residency training programs?

The University Park Curriculum is actually not new — it began in 2012 as a track for the final two years of medical school. Students in the University Park track have matched in residencies of their choice. We anticipate students in the University Park four-year curriculum, which began in 2017, will be equally as successful.

Features of the University Park Curriculum

Will the content for first-year students in the University Park Curriculum be the same as for first-year students in the Hershey Curriculum?

All students in Penn State College of Medicine must achieve the same competencies and overall educational outcomes (subcompetencies) in order to graduate from its College of Medicine. However, the order of content, learning methods and types of assessments for first-year students in the University Park Curriculum differ from those used in the Hershey Curriculum. While they do not need to be identical, they do need to be comparable. The key concept is that, while the path may be different, the overall learning outcomes are the same.

Will the faculty teaching first- and second-year students at University Park be the same as the faculty in Hershey?

All medical faculty teaching our students are faculty in Penn State College of Medicine. Some are based in Hershey, some are based in University Park, and some teach in both locations. The majority of teachers guiding and developing the University Park Curriculum are based at University Park. In addition, some faculty from Eberly College of Science at Penn State University Park contribute to teaching.

Will students have the opportunity to complete elective clinical rotations at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and/or elsewhere, both nationally and internationally?

Yes. Based on their interests and career goals, students have the opportunity to complete clinical rotations at Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and medical institutions outside the Penn State Health system.

Is the University Park Curriculum oriented toward training primary-care physicians?

The University Park Curriculum is committed to training the most capable physicians in any specialty; who will serve the needs of patients and communities; and who will practice, collaborate and engage in a career of lifelong inquiry and learning. Students in the University Park Curriculum pursue careers in a variety of specialties and locations, not limited to primary care.

How does the University Park Curriculum teach concepts in areas such as biochemistry or pharmacology?

Concepts in the foundational sciences (for example, biochemistry and pharmacology) are taught in an integrated and multilayered fashion. This begins with a "first pass" in Inquiry Group discussions that are mapped and tracked to inform future discussions and assessment. Topics identified as requiring additional depth and faculty expertise trigger discussions in Collaborative Science Seminars and Novel Clinical Integrated Sessions. An additional layer occurs during the Core Clerkships as students participate in the integrated science sessions of the weekly “Marsh Rounds” in Patients and Sciences 3. Students return to foundational science concepts and anatomy in a deliberate fashion, after completing the clerkships, during the five-month Patients and Sciences 4 course at the beginning of the third year. All student learning is mapped and tracked to the same College of Medicine core content used by the Hershey Curriculum.

What are community half-days, and why are they important?

Community service is an important element of the University Park Curriculum. Community half days allow student participation in selected community-based organizations — curricular time for such work is built into the learning process. Community service is not “extra” or “added on,” it's integral to what it means to be a University Park student. In addition, students have the opportunity to participate in and lead University Park LionCare, which provides free services to vulnerable patients in the Centre County area.

How often should I plan to go to Hershey for academic requirements?

This will vary according to needs and availability of coursework and faculty. Trips to Hershey occur during orientation and for educational sessions and assessments that are common for all students. Most academic needs are met by the robust resources available at University Park. In general, students might expect one trip per quarter to Hershey.

More About University Park

Is housing provided? What are my living options?

Students are responsible for their own housing. University Park Regional Campus medical students may choose to live wherever they desire. Historically, the majority of students have chosen to live at The View apartments in State College, the apartment complex that has worked closely with the UPRC Office of Medical Education and is familiar with the needs and academic calendar of the medical school. Each pet-friendly apartment consists of two- or three-bedroom suites. Each suite includes a private bath, full-size bed, mattress, dresser, desk, chair, side table or nightstand and window blinds. The View also offers access to its swimming pool, clubhouse, workout facilities, computer room and other on-site recreational facilities. Other apartment communities in the area include: The Valley, The Bryn Student Living, Tremont Student Living and The Park at State College.

Is it required that I have my own transportation? What public transportation options are available to me?

Penn State College of Medicine highly recommends that students have access to a vehicle during their four years in the College of Medicine. All residents of The View apartments will receive a free bus pass for transportation around the State College area. However, given the variety of clinic locations and hours, bus service is not always sufficient to allow full participation in medical student activities.

What is it like to live in State College?

State College is a small, yet vibrant community heavily influenced by the atmosphere of a Big Ten university. It has all the sporting and cultural amenities of a world-class university and city in the intimate setting of a small college town. State College is surrounded by farmland and an expanse of forests and mountains. To learn more about life in State College, visit the following:

Where is the University Park campus? What hospital is it affiliated with?

The University Park Regional Campus, home to Penn State College of Medicine’s University Park Curriculum, is in State College, Pa., which is also Penn State’s central campus. Inquiry groups and other learning sessions take place in the Park Avenue facility, in an educational space designed specifically for the College of Medicine. The Park Avenue facility is next to Mount Nittany Medical Center, the area’s leading community-based hospital and the site for most core inpatient experiences. Students also have the opportunity to participate in multiple outpatient practice offices in State College and the surrounding area. Students can take advantage of unique collaborations available on the Penn State central campus and have full access to the College of Medicine resources in Hershey.

What is the diversity of patients like in and around State College?

The health care resources in and around State College serve a diverse patient community. Patients include many Penn State employees; Penn State is the largest employer in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In addition, University Park Curriculum students will see patients from throughout Centre County in the various health care facilities that host student rotations. University Park’s academic environment drives an extraordinary level of diversity within the local community. The surrounding area also provides rich opportunities to engage in rural and underserved care.

University Park Curriculum Student Leadership

Latest News from the University Park Curriculum