Biomedical Problems Program


Mercer University School of Medicine has utilized a small group, medical student centered, problem-based learning (PBL) approach to educate our students in the basic science disciplines since its opening in 1982. During the first two years, our students learn through a problem-based instructional method in which they not only study the basic sciences requisite to medical practice, but also develop independent, lifelong learning skills. From the outset, our students begin to organize and apply their knowledge in the manner of the caring physician.

Biomedical Problems Program

Small Group Tutorials

Small group tutorials serve as the center of Mercer's PBL process for medical education. The fundamentals of all the basic science disciplines are learned in the context of patient problems (virtual patients with "paper cases"). A major advantage of this approach is that the clinical relevance of the basic science curriculum is continually reinforced. This not only facilitates the initial learning of the information but also enhances its retention because of the contextual process.

Student-Centered Learning

Students generate learning issues for each clinical problem. Faculty (tutors) facilitate the small group discussions, but our students are expected to determine appropriate areas of emphasis and to lead the discussion. Self-directed learning is a vital component of the BMP Program, but discipline faculty provide learning objectives which help guide our students' study. Our faculty encourage student inquiry and maintain an open-door policy as mentors and information providers.

There is significant student-to-student and student-to-faculty interaction promoted by our small class sizes with friendly ambience. This emphasis on active learning assists our students in becoming independent learners prepared for health care delivery in the 21st century, in which medical knowledge will change more rapidly than ever before.

Fully Integrated Basic Sciences Curriculum

While many medical schools teach the sciences basic to medicine in distinctly separate units, such as anatomy, microbiology, and physiology courses, Mercer was the first medical school to completely integrate all the basic sciences into one problem-based learning continuum. Curricular integration facilitates knowledge acquisition, retention, and application while preparing our students for future learning experiences in health care settings.

Reciprocal Student-Faculty Evaluation

Mercer student progress is evaluated by both internal and external measures. Evaluation in the first two years is satisfactory/unsatisfactory and is based on the specific objectives of each curricular program. Throughout the BMP Program, students are given both formative and summative evaluations of their group process. Reciprocally, students provide detailed evaluations of tutors and the program phases. Students are required to pass USMLE Steps 1 and 2.


During the first two years, students meet three times each week in small groups of seven or eight, interacting along with a faculty facilitator (tutor) to discuss the basic mechanisms of disease involved in clinical cases based upon the Biomedical Problems. Students initially analyze each case for learning issues pertinent to a complete explanation of the case. During this process, they define and refine areas for further study. Each member of the group is responsible for accomplishing case-related objectives and coming to the next group session prepared to take an active role in a comprehensive discussion of the case. From one to three cases are covered per week in each phase of the program.

Our students are provided a significant amount of independent study time to support their group learning and gain understanding of the basic science disciplines relevant to each case. These disciplines can include Anatomy/Embryology, Behavioral Sciences, Biochemistry/Nutrition, Genetics, Immunology, Microbiology, Neuroscience, Pathology, Pharmacology, and Physiology. Our faculty assist student learning for, each phase by providing a comprehensive Study Guide with discipline learning objectives and recommended references. Students are not limited to these references and are encouraged to utilize additional textbooks, computerized resources, and Internet materials.

The first two years are divided into 12 phases for the BMP Program. First-year phases and their lengths in weeks are: cells & metabolism (6), genetics & development (6), host defense (6), hematology (6), neurology (7), and musculoskeletal (6). For the second year the phases are: brain & behavior (5), cardiology (6), pulmonology (6), gastrointestinal (6), renal (5), endocrinology & biology of reproduction (6). Please log into the Canvas Learning Management System to view phase content.