Physiology Syllabus

Medical Physiology Course Syllabus


General Course Information

Course Objectives

Physiology Core Curriculum

Course 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 

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

  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 treament.

  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.

  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.

  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.

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

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

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

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

 Physiology Core Curriculum

Course Competencies

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

Medical Knowledge (MK)

will 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.

You are expected to integrate basic physiology with your developing clinical understanding as obtained during case work and interactions with clinicians.

For satisfactory performance, you must pass the course.

Practice Based Learning and Improvement (PBLI)

will be evaluated during Team-Based Learning, during Simulated Patient Case Experiences, during Small Group Work, and during Role-Play.

In small group discussion, you are expected to actively and productively participate, and to further the group's performance and learning. For human case simulations, you are expected  to listen effectively to the patient presentation and to communicate effectively the rationale for a preliminary diagnosis and treatment plan. All questions posed as part of the course handouts need to be answered in a comprehensible and legible way.

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.



    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: 16%
       Test 4: 16%
       Test 5: 16%
    TBL Quizzes
       IRAT: 2%
       GRAT: 3%


    Active Learning


    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 meet 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 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 Active Learning grade will be determined by peer and self assessment of your ability to identify learning gaps and to actively seek to close them by identifying, analysing and synthesizing relevant and credible information.

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

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

    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