Medical School Curriculum

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University was one of eight medical schools nationally to receive funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Program "Preparing physicians for the future. A Program in Medical Education." Our new curriculum, completed in 1997, has been created around longitudinally integrated four-year long tracks in basic sciences, population sciences, social and behavioral sciences and clinical sciences. In addition to a tradition of strength in basic science there is emphasis on health promotion, disease prevention and behavioral medicine. Nutrition is recognized as one of these four year themes. To help identify areas relevant to nutrition, one of the goals of the Nutrition web page is to highlight the specific nutrition content throughout the curriculum.

During the first year, one single course, Science Basic to the Practice of Medicine and Dentistry (SBPMD) contains both preclinical and clinical information, previously taught as separate courses. The SBPMD course is supplemented by the Clinical Practice I course, focused on more practical clinical applications.

Due to the integrated curriculum, there is no defined Nutrition course in the medical school. Most of the classic biochemistry foundations relevant to nutrition is taught during the SBPMD course, and during the Clinical Practice I course, a series of 7 foundation lectures in clinical nutrition are taught. Areas relevant to nutrition in Pathophysiology and Clinical Practice II in the second year are highlighted as are opportunities for a focus on clinical areas where nutrition is relevant during the 3rd and 4th year clerkships.

Nutrition Academic Award

In 2000, the College of Physicians and Surgeons was one of 21 medical schools in the United States to be awarded a Nutrition Academic Award from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the NIH. The P.I. for the award is Dr. Lars Berglund, Department of Medicine, and the Columbia NAA team includes Dr. Katherine Nickerson, Dept of Medicine, Dr. Christine Williams, Dept of Pediatrics, Drs. Richard Deckelbaum and Sharon Akabas, Institute of Human Nutrition, Drs. Hilary Schmidt and Vicki LeBlanc, Center for Education Research and Evaluation, and Ms. Wahida Karmally, Irving Center for Clinical Research. The award is a 5 year grant and provides means to longitudinally integrate nutrition in the medical school curriculum.

The medical schools awarded Nutrition Academic Awards have formed a national NAA consortium with sharing of resources and information. Many of these resources are available to Columbia students. If you click on the NAA SYMBOL on the Nutrition home page, you will be taken to the NAA Home page and from there you can explore the various resources of the other 20 schools in the consortium. Depending on the policy of each school, some information may be password protected and available only to students in the respective schools. From the NAA page, you can easily access the NHLBI site and also accessory sites within each school (i.e. Centers for Nutrition Research etc).

Nutrition Research at Columbia University:
Institute of Human Nutrition

Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons has a strong research interest in nutrition. Key resources for these studies are the Institute of Human Nutrition (IHN) and the General Clinical Research Center (see below). The IHN serves as a focal point for nutrition-oriented research, training and teaching at Columbia. Briefly, the IHN is responsible for providing training and coordinated research in the areas of basic nutritional science, clinical nutrition and public health nutrition at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University.

The IHN is one of the very few nutrition programs in the United States that is free-standing within a medical school. The IHN links training and research in nutrition to provide a group of highly trained medical practitioners and researchers who are interested in the role of diet in the maintenance of health and the prevention of disease in humans. The IHN stimulates physicians, dentists and candidates with doctoral degrees in nutrition, biochemistry, public health, nursing and other related fields to conduct original research in the field of human nutrition. To accomplish these goals, the IHN offers both pre- and post-doctoral programs, supported by training grants from the NIH. The IHN offers three different programs that culminate in M.S., joint M.S.-M.P.H. or Ph.D. degrees. Graduates of these programs become teachers and investigators in medical schools and universities and hold positions of leadership in community and international nutrition. In addition, the faculty of the IHN is increasingly called upon to lead national and international initiatives related to nutrition policy and guidelines.

Nutrition Research at Columbia University:
NIH-supported projects

Research related to cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus and obesity is a specific and major focus at Columbia University. Faculty members are also listed as trainers on a number of different NIH training (T32) grants, including 2 grants for training in Nutrition, 1 in Obesity, and 1 in Atherosclerosis. Faculty of the IHN directs and leads numerous research programs directly related to cardiovascular disease both in molecular, clinical and epidemiological levels. Several large NIH program projects involve the participation of a substantial fraction of IHN faculty (including the SCOR Program in Vascular Biology and the Obesity Research Center Program Grant). In addition, a large number of RO1's funded by the NIH are directly related to research on atherosclerosis, obesity and diabetes. Thus, Columbia University has emerged as a leader in linking cardiovascular disease research to nutrition with excellent opportunities for collaborative research and a high degree of interaction. This large research potential with major focus on cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus and obesity creates an environment that is particularly conducive to integration with nutrition teaching.

Nutrition Research at Columbia University:
Irving Center for Clinical Research

An additional important resource for nutrition research at Columbia University is the General Clinical Research Center (GCRC). Since 1995, Dr. Henry Ginsberg has served as Director. Dr. Ginsberg is a nationally and internationally recognized leader in nutrition research, and the GCRC nutrition research unit under the leadership of Wahida Karmally plays a key role in a number of clinical research protocols. In addition, all second year medical residents participate in a research rotation at the GCRC, and as part of this rotation, the residents participate in individualized small-group sessions devoted to nutrition. Recently, as part of the Doris Duke clinical research program for medical students, participants in this program complete a rotation including nutrition sessions in the GCRC.