"Innovative instructional methods and technologies prepare Keck students for a lifetime of collaborative learning and practice and enable them to establish careers as outstanding physician-citizen-scholars, and as forward-thinking leaders able to improve the health of patients and communities."

Ron Ben-Ari, MD
Associate Dean for Medical Education

About Our MD Program

Our innovative Physician – Citizen – Scholar curriculum integrates the study of clinical science with basic science and provides for close work with faculty mentors. Students receive rich and well-rounded education to prepare them to be outstanding physicians, effective leaders, collaborative and impactful members of teams and society, and capable of scientific discovery. Keck School of Medicine of USC students are immersed in clinical settings early in their training and learn from seeing patients at more than a dozen affiliated hospitals, including Keck Medical Center, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and Los Angeles General Medical Center, one of the largest teaching hospitals in the nation. The diversity of Los Angeles provides Keck School of Medicine students with unrivaled experiences with a wide range of clinical cases and the privilege of caring for disadvantaged and underserved populations.

The Keck School of Medicine MD curriculum is designed to provide students with the breadth and depth of knowledge and skills to prepare them to enter whichever specialty they choose. The curriculum:

  • Enhances students’ understanding of basic, clinical and health systems sciences and their application to the practice of medicine

  • Improves students’ problem-solving and independent study skills

  • Integrates early clinical immersion and learning from patient encounters from the very beginning of medical school.

The Keck School of Medicine Program Learning Objectives can be found here.



Ron Ben-Ari, MD, Senior Associate Dean, Medical Education
Kevin Nash, Ph.D, Assistant Dean, Curriculum
David Diller, MD, Assistant Dean, Clinical Curriculum

Keck School of Medicine Vision:
To solve the most intractable health problems afflicting humanity.

The Physician – Citizen – Scholar Curriculum

The Keck School of Medicine of USC cultivates MD students to become Physician-Citizen-Scholars who are empowered to be future leaders in health justice and health care with the skills necessary to serve and advocate for diverse communities, improve human health and health systems, and advance and apply scientific discovery.

The Physician-Citizen-Scholar MD Curriculum ensures that Keck School of Medicine (KSOM) students: gain the medical knowledge and clinical skills to be outstanding Physicians; learn through collaboration with other health professionals, patients and our surrounding communities to be respectful and respected Citizens who serve and lead; and are trained in methods of scientific inquiry and equipped as lifelong Scholars, able to contribute to new discoveries and to solving problems of patient care and health systems.

The Physician-Citizen-Scholar MD Curriculum emphasizes active learning strategies, early clinical experiences with real and simulated patients, and a learning environment that fosters the wellbeing and professional development of students. It is anchored by longitudinal coursework and experiential learning in Health Justice. All KSOM students are trained in how social determinants of health affect the health outcomes of individuals and populations while ensuring that students acquire skills in community assessment, health policy, and advocacy that can be used to advance health equity. All KSOM students receive a Certificate in Health Justice to reflect the core nature of this comprehensive and immersive curriculum.

The Physician-Citizen-Scholar Curriculum is delivered in three phases with longitudinal integration of content and experiences in health justice, clinical skills, professional identity formation, health systems science, humanities, ethics, economics, art and law, and scholarship. USMLE Step 1 is taken at the end of the Scientific and Clinical Foundations (Pre-Clerkship) Phase.

KSOM MD Curriculum

Pre-Clerkship Phase (16 months): Scientific and Clinical Foundations

  • Provides students with a broad and extensive range of knowledge and skills in biomedical sciences and clinical care.

  • Composed of blocks of curricular content organized around function.

  • Longitudinal instruction in core clinical skills and clinical reasoning is integrated throughout using active and case-based learning.

  • Students participate in small groups to explore how the health system works and concepts of social justice such as social determinants of health and the political, economic, racial, and social structures that impact health and contribute to inequities in health access and outcomes.

  • Students actively engage with the surrounding community through service learning experiences to gain a firsthand understanding of the factors that influence health and health outcomes.

  • Students participate in Longitudinal Learning Communities with a dedicated faculty coach that supports a curriculum for individualized professional development.

Clerkship Phase (12 months): Clinical Immersion

  • Provides students with rich and immersive clinical training in core clerkships: Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Neurology, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Pediatrics, Psychiatry, and Surgery.

  • Students serve and learn as important contributing members of interprofessional teams.

  • Students participate in a two-week seminar on Health Justice and Systems of Care.

  • Cross-cutting themes in health justice, health systems science, geriatric medicine, ethics, chronic disease prevention and management, and mental health will be integrated throughout.

  • Longitudinal coaching and mentoring will continue through the Clerkship phase.

Post-Clerkship Phase (16 months): Individuation and Transformation

  • Provides students with an extensive array of clinical opportunities to individualize and tailor their education to determine and achieve their postgraduate career goals.

  • All students participate in a residency preparation course.

  • Students may select an area of emphasis for in-depth exploration. Areas of emphasis include:

    • Biomedical Research

    • Global Health

    • Advocacy and Policy

    • Medical Education

    • Narrative Medicine

    • Primary Care and Community Engagement

    • Digital Medicine

    • Quality and Safety

  • Students complete a scholarly project related to their area of emphasis.

It is well known that historical and systemic social forces (e.g., poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia, immigration, violence, and environmental issues) contribute substantially to a wide range of deleterious effects on health which disproportionately affect individuals from disenfranchised groups. Physicians are well-positioned to be at the forefront of social change and the Keck School of Medicine has a deep commitment to equity, justice and structural transformation with a goal of ameliorating health disparities and benefiting society as a whole. The establishment of a Health Justice and Systems of Care Curriculum (HJSC) reflects the commitment of the Keck School of Medicine to Social Justice and its efforts to impact health equity. The HJSC curriculum is core content for all KSOM medical students and a certificate in Health Justice is issued at graduation. The goal is to provide KSOM medical students with transformative and immersive educational experiences in Health Justice, which create and sustain future generations of physicians, imbuing them with the knowledge and skills to build practices and organizations that meet the needs of individuals and communities and enabling them to lead policy efforts to address healthcare inequities in society.

Health Justice and Systems of Care Curriculum Objectives:

To earn the Health Justice certificate, KSOM students will:

  • Build knowledge of theories of justice and explore how interrelated topics such as residential segregation, income, education, gender, food insecurity, and structural racism impact human rights and health disparities.

  • Recognize the ways in which socioeconomic systems deny or promote individuals’ realization of human rights based on categories of prejudice or privilege locally and globally.

  • Employ skills of communication, community assessment, organizing and mobilization, leadership, and advocacy needed to influence systems and societal structures to cultivate an equitable healthcare system and provide equitable health care.

  • Gain insight into the role of community organizing and mobilization in driving policy and practice as a means to respond to the challenges of inequities in health and health care.

The HJSC learning sessions are woven throughout the first 30 months of medical school as a requirement for all students. The HJSC curriculum ensures that KSOM medical students gain in-depth knowledge about social justice issues in healthcare and the skills necessary to assess communities for inequities and to advocate for justice in healthcare. As part of the HJSC curriculum, KSOM medical students participate in service-oriented community engagement experiences to enable them to serve as excellent physicians, engaged advocates and skillful investigators advancing health and healthcare for all. 

Core Content:

The HJSC curriculum progresses from an inward look at self, to interactions with others including peers, community members and patients and to understanding societal and legal influences on health and healthcare. Topics include:

Implicit bias training

Theories of justice and human rights

Health justice ethics

Cultural humility

Health care disparities

Social determinants of health

Structural competency

Structural racism

Access to care

Healthcare for homeless populations

Trauma-informed care

Adverse childhood events

Community assessment and mobilization


Health Policy and Advocacy Track:

Medical students may also pursue a post-clerkship advanced track in Health Policy and Advocacy as their Area of Emphasis to work on implementing an advocacy proposal with faculty mentorship.

Students interact with actual patients from the very first weeks of medical school at partnering hospitals such as Los Angeles General Medical Center, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Keck Hospital of USC, and others. This hands-on clinical experience throughout the curriculum gives students unrivaled exposure to a remarkably wide range of clinical experiences spanning public and private healthcare systems.


Keck Hospital of USC


Los Angeles General Medical Center


Children’s Hospital Los Angeles


The simulation training programs at the Keck School of Medicine of USC offer comprehensive learning opportunities for medical students to practice a wide range of clinical, surgical, and procedural skills in a state-of-the-art and immersive training environment.