Duke University School of Medicine


The School of Medicine at Duke was founded in 1930. The Medical Center, which includes the School of Medicine, the School of Nursing, and a hospital, is located on the West Campus. These health care facilities are all part of Duke University, an institution established in 1924 by James Buchanan Duke, industrialist and philanthropist. His original endowment served to transform Trinity College in Durham, North Carolina into today’s world-renowned institution of higher learning.


The school of medicine typically entails a 4-year program. The first year introduces students to the basic sciences, which are the building units of medicine. The subjects are condensed into the essentials necessary for medical practice and serve as the basis for clinical studies, which begin in the following year. Courses are taught in blocks, so that students need to concentrate on no more than three major areas at a time. The lecture-based courses are integrated within the same block,so that relevant material is taught together.

During their second year, students begin seeing patients full time. An intense three-week preparatory period enables them to undertake clinical clerkships in internal medicine, surgery, obstetrics/gynecology, and pediatrics. The basic science principles learned become meaningful and are reinforced in the course of working with patients. The clinical exposure permits the student to become familiar with the major patient-care disciplines and thus facilitates making thoughtful decisions concerning the path to pursue during the elective third and fourth years.

Year three provides an opportunity for significant personal growth. Students are permitted to study an area of particular interest in depth. Each student chooses an independent scholarship project and enrolls in the appropriate general study program. All third-year projects last between eight and nine months. Faculty advisors help the student design a study program that best meets the individual’s needs. The program serves to encourage a lifelong commitment to scholarship and enhances one’s medical education regardless of their ultimate goal.

The fourth year is the most flexible, rounding out the student’s medical education. It offers opportunities for sampling areas of interest, becoming more comfortable with patients, mastering the core competencies that have not yet been achieved, and deciding on one’s postgraduate training.

The school of medicine follows a strict pass/fail system. The USMLE exam is not required for promotion or graduation. Records of students are reviewed periodically by promotion committees consisting of course directors. Pre-clinical teaching takes place in the Thomas D. Kinney Central Teaching Laboratory. Clinical instruction takes place at Duke Hospital and at the Durham VA Hospital. To supplement student research, the Medical Center Library houses more than 200,000 volumes and subscribes to 5,000 periodicals. The Trent Collection includes books on the history of medicine and is considered noteworthy for the Southeast.

Unique Programs

The school has an active minority recruitment program. Combined-degree programs include the Medical Scientist Training Program for the MD-PhD, the Medical Historian Training Program for the MD-PhD, the MD-JD program for a joint medical and legal degree, and the MD-MPH for a medical degree and a Masters in Public Health.


Required courses include the basic premedical science courses, one year of calculus, and one year of English (consisting primarily of expository English composition). An introductory course in biochemistry is suggested during the senior year. Residence does not influence admissions decision. The school does not typically accept transfer students or advanced standing requests, except in unusual circumstances.


Off-campus housing is easily available and affordable.

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