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Medical Education
Bridges Curriculum

Six Domains of Science Defined


Foundational biomedical science investigates normal and abnormal structure and function of biomolecules, cells, tissues, organs and organ systems to elucidate normal and abnormal function of the human body, with the ultimate goal of promoting health and fighting disease. Experimental methodologies used are highly varied and span the spectrum from molecular techniques (such as molecular biology and biochemistry) through functional studies (such as functional imaging and behavioral assays). Because of ethical reasons and inherent complexity of the human organism, basic biomedical science typically employs model systems (from cell/tissue models to model organisms) to answer fundamental biological questions.


Clinical science is intended to produce knowledge valuable for the understanding of human disease, preventing and treating illness, and promoting health. Clinical research involves interactions with patients, diagnostic clinical materials or data, or populations in any of the following areas: (1) disease mechanisms (etiopathogenesis); (2) bi-directional integrative (translational) research; (3) clinical knowledge, detection, diagnosis and natural history of disease; (4) therapeutic interventions including clinical trials of drugs, biologics, devices and instruments; (5) prevention (primary and secondary) and health promotion; (6) behavioral research; (7) health services research, including outcomes, and cost-effectiveness; (8) epidemiology; and (9) community-based trials.


Educational Science (ES) is an interdisciplinary field that draws on multiple theoretical perspectives and research paradigms to advance and apply knowledge about learning and development. In the context of medical education, ES investigates learning processes and outcomes and applies educational principles to the design and implementation of curriculum which includes instruction, learning technologies, learning environment, learner assessment and faculty development. Research in ES is framed by behavioral, cognitive and socio-cultural theories of learning and uses quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods of research. At UCSF ES focuses on 1) individual learners, 2) peer/professional teams, and 3) patients. Major contributing fields include anthropology, applied linguistics, cognitive and educational psychology, computer science and sociology.


Epidemiology and Population Sciences includes methodologies for studying disease etiology and prevention in a general population, for evaluating diagnostic tests and treatment efficacy in clinical settings, and for using evidence-based approaches in clinical practice. Epidemiology is the study of the patterns of disease occurrence in populations and the causes of these diseases. Methodological fundamentals include study design, confounding, bias, and research methodology for assessing causes of diseases in individuals and populations. 


The social and behavioral sciences (SBS) in medicine represent a broad umbrella of related scientific disciplines that systematically examine human behavior, human society, social institutions, social relationships, and other social and behavioral phenomena relevant to health and disease. SBS is comprised of theory-driven, hypothesis-based, and application-producing fields of study that can account for substantial variance in health. Primary disciplines include anthropology, cognitive science, economics, history, political science, psychology, and sociology. “Behavioral” includes overt actions; underlying psychological processes such as cognition, emotion, temperament, and motivation; and biobehavioral interactions. “Social” encompasses sociocultural, socioeconomic, and sociodemographic status; biosocial interactions; and the various levels of social context from small groups to complex cultural systems and societal influences. Research methods and tools of inquiry vary widely but often include both quantitative and qualitative approaches such as randomized clinical trials, survey research, interviews, and observational studies.  


System Sciences recognizes healthcare to be a field of multiple macrosystems and microsystems, comprised of multiple components (patients, interprofessional healthcare teams, institutions, payers, regulators, pharmacy, clinical informatics, etc.) The field takes a systems-based approach to identifying gaps and areas of waste or variability in healthcare delivery, analyzing these issues, and designing initiatives to improve them. Clinical quality improvement, patient and workforce experience, patient safety, high-value care, health policy, leadership and change management are all core elements of this field.