Curriculum Options

RowanSOM has two different curriculum tracks from which to choose: Traditional Curriculum and Problem-Based Learning (PBL) Curriculum.  Students can make their choice at the time of application or after acceptance. Once students are accepted into RowanSOM, students will be assigned into one of the curriculum tracks based on their secondary application and ranked preferences. A separate PBL selection committee will make assignments to the PBL cohort.

Both curricular tracks will prepare students to become excellent physicians and to perform well on the board exams. The choice of curriculum to choose is up to each student. This year PBL is being expanded from 1 group of 7-8 students to 6 groups.

Traditional Curriculum

RowanSOM’s current curriculum was newly implemented in Fall 2009. Students study the normal body function in first year and disease processes and treatment in the second year. Each year is structured by organ systems, with each course teaching the relevant content within that system of the body. Faculty have worked hard to reduce the number of basic lectures, and have integrated more technology assisted learning such as an audience response system, more self-directed learning activities, team-based learning, and small group learning instead of lectures. There is also the extensive use of the standardized patient laboratory for learning clinical skills. Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine is taught throughout the first and second years. A schematic of the first two years curriculum can be found below.

RowanSOM is one of the few medical schools in the country to include Geriatrics as a required course, and is actually found in both the second and third years. The presence of a nationally ranked center of excellence in the NJ Institute for Successful Aging allows for this progressive education.

Year One

The year one curriculum is steeped in the basic sciences, including longitudinal courses in Anatomy, Physiology, Histology, Microbiology, Biochemistry and Genetics, and Neuroscience. OMM starts in the first week of medical school and builds the foundation of philosophy and practice of our profession.  While still discipline-based, all first-year courses are aligned around and delivered in systems based format to create context and help integrate basic science and clinical medicine.  Examples of this integration include: small group physiology sessions, clinical teaching in biochemistry and genetics, and integrative cases combining microbiology and histology. Anatomy and neuroscience courses are fully organized around clinical issues and diagnostic imaging. An On Doctoring course, consolidates and integrates several topics including professionalism, community oriented primary care, interpersonal communication, physical diagnosis, and medical ethics. Additional standardized patient experiences are being built in, as well as clinical preceptorship so that all students have direct patient contact beginning in their first year.

Chart with Year 1 Curriculum

Year Two

The second year curriculum is also organized by systems-based modules. These modules integrate clinical medicine, pharmacology, pathology, OMM, and On Doctoring. Also included in the second year curriculum are elements of evidence-based medicine, biostatistics, epidemiology, and analysis of research studies.  Professionalism continues throughout the second year with biomedical ethics issues woven into case-based learning sessions and standardized patient encounters. Likewise On Doctoring continues throughout the second year raising students’ skill level in patient care with an emphasis on physical diagnosis. The psychiatry course is taught as an intersession between two systems’ modules. There are several other short courses in the Spring Semester designed to prepare the students for clinical rotations. These include Death and Dying, Pain, Pediatrics, Geriatrics and Women’s Health. The second semester concludes with formal preparatory time for COMLEX Level I examination.

Chart with Year 2 Curriculum

Problem-based Learning Curriculum – Enhanced in 2016

We are very excited to present our newly enhanced and expanded opportunity to participate in the Problem-Based Learning (PBL) Curriculum. RowanSOM has 15 years of experience offering PBL. Our PBL students have enjoyed grades and board scores on par with the Traditional Curriculum students. We have dedicated PBL faculty who are committed to facilitating the PBL groups. PBL groups will change with each module and faculty will move to another group for each module. This will allow each faculty member to get to know each PBL student well. Students will benefit from learning with both clinical and basic science faculty facilitators.

In the PBL curriculum, clinical case presentations serve as the stimulus for acquiring the basic science knowledge needed to understand underlying mechanisms as well as the means of developing clinical reasoning skills. Students work together in small groups of 7-8 working through a different case each week. The PBL schedule is also organized by systems modules, but on a different order and schedule than the Traditional Curriculum.  The first year is focused more on basic science, the second year on pathophysiology and disease.  In the first year there five modules, Pulmonary, Cardiovascular and Renal, Sensorimotor, Gastrointestinal-Nutrition and Endocrinology-Reproduction.   For the second year the modules are: Microbiology, Immunology and Hematology, Cardiovascular, renal and pulmonary, Neuroscience,  musculo-skeletal and Psychiatry, and ending with GI and Endocrinology.

When case information is not known by the PBL group, they use their days off to look up the missing information or “learning issues” and present their findings to their peers and faculty at the next session. In this way, PBL is more student-centered. Students have more autonomy and flexibility in their learning schedule and resources. Natural redundancy built into the cases allows for better retention of information.

PBL started in medical education in the 1960’s at McMaster Medical School in Canada. Since then many medical schools around the world have adopted PBL as part or all of their teaching modalities. More information about PBL as a method of learning in medical school is available at the NCBI web site.

Sample PBL Weekly Schedule starting 2016







PBL Group

PBL Group

On Doctoring for PBL 1 Lab

PBL Group


OMM for PBL 1 lab

The newly enhanced PBL Curriculum at RowanSOM also includes an integrated On Doctoring course where students learn how to take a history and perform a physical exam. This course is integrated with the PBL cases and has a dedicated faculty member. RowanSOM is the only Osteopathic medical school to integrate OMM with PBL cases. There are two dedicated OMM faculty who will teach PBL students with an unprecedented faculty: student ratio of 1:5 in OMM labs.

PBL is a two-year program; with the start of the clerkships in the third year, PBL students join the rest of their classmates. Once a student chooses the PBL Curriculum and has been assigned to the PBL cohort, one can only switch out if there is another student that wants to move into the PBL Curriculum.

Clinical Curriculum*

Year Three

Years three and four focus more on clinical education and are the same for both Tradition and PBL curriculum tracks. The basic principles of medical practice are taught in a combination of classroom, ambulatory, and hospital settings.  Clinical Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine is integrated throughout core third year rotations.  Because a large percentage of our faculty are D.O.s, the students have the opportunity to get reinforcement of their OPP/OMM skills in many rotations. In all clerkships, third and fourth-year students learn patient care, develop clinical technical skills and serve as members of a medical team. Students spend time with clinical faculty in the Kennedy University Hospital system located in Stratford, Cherry Hill, and Washington Township; Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center in Camden; Inspira Health Network in Vineland, NJ; CarePoint Health in Jersey City; Atlantic Health System in Morristown and Summit, NJ; Meridian Health in Brick and Manahawkin, NJ; AtlantiCare in Atlantic City, NJ; CentraState in Freehold, NJ and other instructional sites in the region.

Currently, third year students spend time in nine core specialty rotations, where they learn basic clinical procedures and standard operating procedures of the hospital and office practice. Radiology is woven throughout the core rotations with online CORE® cases, so students can learn radiographic concepts in a discipline-based context. 

Third year core rotations emphasize primary care and include:

3rd Year Clerkships

Number of Weeks

Family Medicine




Internal Medicine


Medicine Selective (Cardiology or Pulmonology)






Obstetrics and Gynecology


Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine


Surgery, including Anesthesiology


Pain Management and Musculoskeletal Medicine




Year Four

The fourth-year instructional format includes a series of clinical experiences with a significant amount of flexibility for students to plan their year according to their specialty choices. Students can plan up to four electives in the fourth year.  The student is given patient-care responsibilities on each service through which he/she rotates. Instruction takes place at the bedside and in clinical conferences. During the year, students develop skill and competency in history taking and physical examination, creating a differential diagnosis, ordering and interpreting laboratory tests; learning procedures in making a diagnosis and providing treatment; establishing professional relationships with patients; and participating in the management of patient care with the team of health care providers during the hospital stay.

The fourth year schedule includes ten weeks of ‘flex time’, which allows students greater flexibility in scheduling residency interviews, while also accommodating off-cycle electives at other institutions. It can also be used to do additional elective rotations if desired by the student. The curricular structure is described in the Education Handbook in greater detail.

Required rotations for fourth-year students include:

4th Year Rotations

Number of Weeks

Fundamentals of Medicine


Emergency Medicine


Medicine, Pediatrics, OB/GYN or Surgical Sub-Specialty


Medicine Selective (ICU, Cardiology or Pulmonology)




Flex time


*For additional information, visit the Clinical Education page.

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