Physiology Syllabus

Medical Physiology Course Syllabus


General Course Information

Course Objectives

Physiology Core Curriculum

Institutional Objectives (Competencies)



Statewide Student Policies


General Course Information

The Medical Physiology Course is a 7 credit hour course, which provides an understanding how cells, tissues, organs, and organ systems function together to create one human organism, with special emphasis on clinical physiology. In this regard, the course lays the basis for understanding diagnosis and treatment of diseases and mechanisms of drugs. It can be followed without previous physiological training. However basic knowledge in anatomy, histology, and biochemistry are expected.

Sessions are presented in a cooperative learning format (Team-Based Learning), in combination with interactive lectures, discussion and role play of clinical cases, and exercises on own bodies. There are opportunities to practice introductory clinical  skills in class and at the RHIC Simulation Center.

Course material, assignements, and grades will be available on the Canvas course website (F525-155154).

Course Objectives 

(Institutional Learning Objectives are provided in parentheses).

1. Identify gaps in personal knowledge of human physiology, identify and evaluate resources to help remedy these deficiencies in your medical knowledge (PBL2).

2. Indicate where and explain how physiological principles contribute to maintaining homeostasis in the human body and to the understanding of human disease, its diagnosis and treatment (MK1).

3. Explain cellular/ molecular mechanisms responsible for the ability of the nervous system to function as an electrical communication system in the body, including its involvement in sensing the external and internal environement, its role in muscle function, and the role of the autonomic nervous system in modifying physiological functions in the body (MK1).

4. Differentiate the molecular and functional characteristics of skeletal, cardiac, and smooth muscle fibers, including the mechanisms responsible for the activation of the entire muscle and how this allows that tissue to create force and movement (MK1).

5. Explain the processes used by the cardiovascular system to regulate and insure proper blood flow as well as maintain proper exchange of materials between tissues and the circulation, including the electrophysiology and the mechanics of the heart, hemodynamics, blood flow and microcirculatory control, trans-capillary exchange processes, and special features of individual organ circulations (MK1).

6. Apply knowledge of the cardiovascular system to the understanding of ECG readings and disease states such as heart failure, hypertension, and shock (MK3).

7. Describe the organization and function of the respiratory system with particular emphasis on the mechanics of breathing, alveolar ventilation and perfusion, transport of oxygen and carbon dioxide, and the control of breathing and apply the knowledge to the understanding of lung diseases (MK1).

8. Explain the processes by which the kidneys sample plasma in order to regulate the chemical composition and volume of the extracellular fluid (ECF) as well as to remove substances from plasma, including cellular and molecular processes in the nephron and their role in the regulation of ECF volume, osmolality, electrolyt and pH balance, and formation of urine in normal and disease states (MK1).

9. Explain the functions, processes and interactions of neuroendocrine systems as they affect the following: growth, development, tissue repair, maintenance of anabolic and catabolic pathways, energy storage and utilization, and bone metabolism, in normal and disease states (MK1).

10.   Describe the organization, functions, and dysfunctions of the male and female reproductive systems, and the role of reproductive hormones in sexual differentiation, the onset of puberty, cotnrol of sexual reproduction, fertility, pregnancy, parturition, and lactation (MK1).

11. Explain how gastrointestinal motility, secretion, digestion, and absorption are controlled, and apply this knowledge to the understanding of major diseases of the gastrointestinal system (MK1).

12. Discuss the importance of thermoregulation and explain the major mechanisms involved in maintaining body temperature (MK1).

13. Appraise the effects of exercise on physiologic systems and explain how exercise may mitigate the effects of aging and disease (MK4).


 Physiology Core Curriculum

Institutional Objectives/ Competencies

IUSM has six statewide competencies.Two of them are officially evaluated in this course:

Medical Knowledge (MK)

Students will apply evidence-based principles of biomedical clinical, epidemiological, and social-behavioral sciences to guide diagnosis, treatment, and patient care decisions.
In this course, you be evaluated during Team-Based Learning Quizzes, Multiple choice exams, and the National Board of Medical Examination Physiology Subject Exam. Oral and Written Reflections will be considered as well.

MK1: Apply knowledge of normal human structure, function, and development, from the molecular through whole body levels, to distinguish health from disease and explain how physiologic mechanismsm are integrated and regulated in the body.

MK3: Describe the altered structure and function resulting from disease, injuries, and functional deficits affecting organ systems*, with an ability to interpret the clinical, histopathologic, laboratory,a nd radiographic manifestations commonly seen in practice.

MK4: Explain the principles of and describe the rationale for interventions (behavioral, genetic, mechanical, nutritional, pharmacologic, surgical, and therapeutic) aimed at the prevention, treatmetn, and/or mangagement of diseases, injuries, and functional deficits affecting organ systems*.

*Organ systems include the cardiovascular, digestive, endocrine, immune, integumentary, lymphatic, muscular, nervous, renal, reproductive, respiratory, and skeletal systems

Practice Based Learning and Improvement (PBLI)

Students will be able to actively set and pursue clear learning goals and exploit new opportunities for intellectual growth and development. The student will demonstrate the ability to generate critical, reliable, valid self-assessment(s) and use this knowledge for self-regulation and to promote their development. Students will be able to recognize and thorougly characterize a problem, develop an informed plan of actin, act to resolve the problem, and subsequently assses the result(s) of their action.

In this course, you will be evaluated during Team-Based Learning, during Simulated Patient Case Experiences, during Small Group Work, and during Role-Play.  Satisfactory performance will be assessed by observation by faculty and staff. A main criteria will be your self awareness, willingness to practice, and ability to improve according to feedback.

PBLI2: Generate and analyze a set of potential solutions by applying prior knowledge to a new experience, recognizing the limitations of prior experience and knowledge, and identifying new information requires to solve the problem.



    The following textbooks will be routinely used in the course. All formats (hard copy or e-text) are acceptable:

    L.S. Costanzo. Physiology. W.B. Saunders Company.

    L.S. Costanzo. Physiology. Board Review Series. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins


    Following, more in-depths textbooks are recommended:

    R.A. Rhoades and D. Bell. Medical Physiology. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 5th edition.

    R.M. Berne and M.N. Levy. Physiology. Mosby.

    W.F. Boron and F.L. Boulpaep. Medical Physiology. Saunders

    A.C. Guyton and J.E. Hall. Textbook of Medical Physiology. W.B. Saunders Company.

    C.H. Best and N.B. Taylor. Physiological Basis of Medical Practice. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.



    Course Tests
       Test 1:  9%
       Test 2: 10%
       Test 3: 17%
       Test 4: 17%
       Test 5: 17%
    TBL Quizzes
       IRAT: 2%
       GRAT: 3%


    Final Exam



    Course Tests and TBL Quizzes will be primarily in the USMLE multiple choice format. Individual results will be available on Canvas for formative feedback. 

    If you fail a unit exam, Dr. Waite will contact you and invite you to discuss your performance and to implement study strategies to avoid recurrence on a subsequent exam, including locally available assistance.  In addition, you may also want to contact your IUSM-TH mentor and the Medical Student Affairs for assistance.

    Any form of cheating is incompatible with the moral conduct expected of members of the medical profession and will not be tolerated. Any student suspected of academic dishonestry will be referred to the Center Director and the Student Promotions Committee and may be dismissed from medical school.

    Absence from an examination without a justifiable reason will result in a Fail grade for the missed examination. 

    The Participation grade will be determined by your active and self-directed learning abilities. Every student is encouraged to identify learning gaps and to actively seek to close them, as well as share new knowledge with the class. Details of assessment will be presented.

    The Final Exam will be the Comprehensive Physiology Examination, often called "Shelf Exam" (NBME exam). This multiple choice exam is provided by the National Board of Medical Examiners as a preparation towards the Step 1 Licensing exam. You will take the Physiology Only test version. You will receive a percentile grade that allows to nationally rank your individual ability to apply physiology in the clinical context. 


    Grade distribution will be based on the percentage distribution guideline stated below. 

    93 - 100%   Honors
    85 - 92%   High Pass
    70 - 84%   Pass
    Below 70%    Fail

    Final grade distribution will be in alignment with the state-wide IUSM guideline on grade distribution:
    Honors (10-20%),
    High Pass (30-50%),
    Pass (40-60%)
    Fail (0-5%).

    Honors: This grade demonstrates particularly outstanding performance.
    High Pass: This grade represents solid work above average in all areas of the course.
    Pass: This grade is given when all course objectives are satisfactorily met.


    Students who need to remediate the course must pass the NBME exam at the 15th percentile or higher to satisfy the statewide remediation program. 

Statewide Student Policies

If you have comments or questions, email Dr. Waite at

135 Holmstedt Hall | Indiana State University | Terre Haute, IN | 47809 | (812) 237-2777