American Osteopathic Association

Advancing the distinctive philosophy and practice of osteopathic medicine

Overview of First-Year Courses

Your first year in osteopathic medical school is geared toward understanding basic sciences, as well as clinical exam skills and OMM. Specific courses and curricula differ from school to school, but typical subjects of study include:

  • Osteopathic Manual Medicine will expose you to the principles and practices distinctive to osteopathic medicine. Instruction may include common techniques like muscle energy; counterstrain; functional, soft tissue or myofascial facilitated positional release; Spencer lymphatic pump; cranial or facial release; and sinus drainage.

  • Gross anatomy is primarily learned in the lab. You should plan to spend time in the lab outside of class to study structures in different cadavers. Develop a sense of both unpredictable and consistent landmarks within the body. In addition, you should mimic gross practical exams with classmates and switch roles.

  • Histology focuses on the molecular scale, both practically and conceptually. You will analyze the structures, functions and mechanisms of molecules.

  • Embryology offers students an opportunity to learn about structures that are rapidly changing in form, composition and geographic relationships. To excel in this course, create timelines with marginal notes indicating the effects at each interval. In addition, study the characteristics and causes of common defects and syndromes.

  • Neuroanatomy is the most complex anatomy course. Devote extra time to preview material before lectures. Then, fill in your notes after each lecture by referring to your texts until your notes tell a story. Afterward, go through your notes and separate main ideas into a master by sections. For example, study the structural relationships first; then learn the functional aspects; then the diseases that disrupt these relationships.

  • Biochemistry can be another challenging subject. Look at old exams to get an idea of the main focuses within biochemistry. Then, create a study agenda from your leanings. Another helpful tool is an old syllabi to understand unit objectives. If your school has a note-taking list serve, use it to get last year’s notes and preview the new vocabulary. This will prevent you from distractions due to vocabulary while you’re trying to take notes in class. If you were weak in organic chemistry, read the lecture topics related to organic chemistry before those lectures. Review and refine information from each lecture every two to three days until the notes start to make sense.

  • Physiology teaches mechanisms that allow the body to maintain homeostasis and to adjust to different environments like higher temperatures and higher altitudes.

  • Immunology teaches terminology for processes and mechanisms. You’ll need to know the stages of the immune response; the time frame for various responses; factors that lead to immunosuppressant; and factors that either stimulate or decrease response time. The coursework facilitates flow charts instead of outline-formatted notes to capture the information. You may also want to practice with old exam questions.