University of Sydney Handbooks - 2016 Archive

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Sydney Medical Program

Doctor of Medicine (MD)

Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) (not open for new enrolments)


Sydney Medical School will award a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree to students who enrol for the first time in the Sydney Medical Program from 2014 onwards. The first graduating MD cohort will complete the Medical Program at the end of the 2017 academic year. The MD will replace the existing Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree (MBBS). New enrolments in the MBBS degree ceased in 2013.

All MD students must complete a unit of study in Research Methods, and a research or capstone project. In other respects, the curriculum, assessment and arrangements for clinical training will be similar to that of the MBBS. Distinctive features of the Sydney Medical Program, including the early introduction of clinical experience and the integration of clinical learning and teaching with basic sciences, population health concepts and the development of professionalism, will be retained.

The option of undertaking an Honours project, which has been available for selected MBBS candidates, is not available for MD candidates.

Students who enrolled in the Medical Program prior to 2014 will graduate with an MBBS. There is currently no opportunity for MBBS students or graduates to convert to MD. The MBBS is not open to new enrolments.

Essential data on the MD and the MBBS degree programs are as follows.

  Doctor of Medicine Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery*
Course code KC105 or MAMEDICI3000 KH006 or BGMEDSUR7000
CRICOS code 079216J 006451B
Degree Abbreviation MD MBBS
Credit points required to complete 192 192
Time to complete full-time 4 years 4 years

*not open for new enrolments; information is provided for continuing students.


The following links provide further information about the Sydney Medical Program (MD and MBBS):

  1. Teaching and learning objectives of the Sydney Medical Program
  2. Statement of Expectations, Professionalism and Progress
  3. Distinctive features of the program

1. Teaching and learning objectives of the Sydney Medical Program

The Sydney Medical Program aims to produce medical graduates who are committed to rational, compassionate health care and medical research of the highest quality, attuned to the global context of medical practice, responsive to the health needs of individuals, families and communities and committed to improving the health care system at all levels.

The success of the Medical Program is reflected in the extent to which graduates maintain lifelong, self-directed learning and the pursuit of evidence-based medical practice, and the extent to which they initiate, lead and implement advances in clinical medicine, research, education and community service.

2. Statement of Expectations, Professionalism and Progress

On commencement of the program, all students are introduced to the Sydney Medical Program’s Statement of Expectations (PDF). This statement has been formally endorsed within the University and provides positive guidance on conduct for students within a professional context.

Students’ academic progression from one year to the next depends not only on academic performance and demonstration of competence in the requisite written and practical assessments, but also on adherence to the principles of professionalism listed in the Statement of Expectations. The requirements for progression are set out in Professionalism and Satisfactory Progress Provisions. Significant breaches of the principles in the Statement of Expectations attract penalties which may include termination of candidature.

Copies of the Statement of Expectations and the Progress Provisions are available on the University of Sydney Policy website:

SMP Statement of Expectations Provisions 2013
SMP Professionalism and Satisfactory Progress Provisions 2013

3. Distinctive features of the Sydney Medical Program

Graduate students from diverse backgrounds

Students may enter the Medical Program after completion of any degree from a recognised university. Consequently the student community comprises individuals with a diverse range of academic and life experience.

As with all graduate-entry medical programs, students in the Sydney Medical Program are expected to have made a mature and considered commitment to prepare for a medical career.

A four-year integrated learning curriculum

Learning in the Medical Program is integrated across basic medical sciences, clinical sciences and clinical and public health disciplines. Four continuous themes frame the structure of the curriculum throughout the four years. These comprise the Basic and Clinical Sciences Theme, the Patient and Doctor Theme, the Population Medicine Theme and the Personal and Professional Development Theme. Further information on the themes is provided below.

Clinical contact from the start

On accepting a place in the Medical Program, students are allocated to one of six Clinical Schools. These are: the Westmead Clinical School based at Westmead Hospital, the Central Clinical School at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, the Northern Clinical School at Royal North Shore Hospital, the Concord Clinical School at Concord Repatriation General Hospital, the Nepean Clinical School at Nepean Hospital, and the Sydney Adventist Hospital Clinical School.

In the first week of the Medical Program, students undertake induction in their allocated Clinical Schools, and from the second week their learning and teaching experience involves contact with patients in hospital wards and clinics. Students spend at least one day each week in their Clinical Schools throughout Years 1 and 2, and they are based entirely in clinical settings throughout Years 3 and 4.

Extensive and diverse clinical training

Later in the program, students undertake a wide range of community and specialty rotations. They receive training in paediatrics and adolescent health at The Children’s Hospital, Westmead, and they are placed in metropolitan and rural general practices to gain experience in primary care and community medicine. They may opt for an extended rural placement at the Dubbo or Orange Clinical Schools of the School of Rural Health, the University Centre for Rural Health in Lismore or the University Department of Rural Health in Broken Hill University.

Clinical training is undertaken at large urban teaching hospitals and smaller suburban and rural hospitals. This offers students a balanced view of urban and rural health care and insights into the differences in medical practice among these sites. The various sites cater for the different fields of medicine that make up the curriculum.

A structured teaching program accompanies practical clinical training and experience in Stage 3 (the latter two years of the Medical Program). Clinical learning and teaching activities include clinical clerkships, small-group clinical tutorials, problem-based clinical reasoning sessions and short placements with various clinical teams.

Students have access to most parts of the hospitals to which they are allocated. In addition to scheduled teaching sessions, they are expected to pursue clinical learning opportunities independently in the wards. They may also be invited to observe surgical procedures and visit acute-care areas.

All Clinical Schools provide students with excellent learning resources. These include internet access, on-site libraries, online learning materials, materials for studying pathology and microbiology, and simulation equipment. Other facilities include common rooms, lounge areas and common-use kitchens. Some sites offer access to child-care facilities.

Development of problem-solving and clinical reasoning skills

A major component of the learning process in the first year (known as Stage 1) and the second year (known as Stage 2) consists of clinical problems presented in problem-based learning (PBL) sessions in which concepts of health and disease are related to the basic biomedical sciences.

The Sydney Medical Program’s approach to PBL emphasises the development of problem-solving and clinical reasoning skills by giving students opportunities to explore and understand the underlying mechanisms of health and disease. They learn how to define and analyse clinical problems and seek the information needed to formulate and resolve diagnostic hypotheses and identify treatment options. The PBL sessions in Stages 1 and 2 make use of a comprehensive set of online resources which enable groups of students to work through an authentic clinical case each week. The case of the week reflects the topics covered in other learning and teaching activities during that week.

This approach also encourages students to become skilled independent learners, able to identify their own learning needs and evaluate their progress.

Clinical Reasoning Sessions in Stage 3 (Years 3 and 4) allow students to apply this understanding in clinical settings, with reference to actual patients whom they encounter in their clinical work.

Research and an evidence-based approach

During Stages 1 and 2, all students attend sessions in which they learn how to frame clinical and research questions and search the literature using electronic databases, the latter with comprehensive instruction from a Medical Liaison Librarian. They also learn how to evaluate the quality of research-based evidence and how to use it in problem-solving and decision-making. In Stage 3, they develop their ability to apply research-based evidence in clinical encounters with patients.

Throughout the Medical Program, students have free access to a wide range of online learning and reference resources variously provided by individual teaching departments and the University of Sydney Library system. They may obtain access to these resources on the main campus, in their Clinical Schools, or on their own computers in any location where internet access is available. They also have access to extensive library collections (printed and online texts).

During Stage 1, MD students also spend three weeks learning about research methods in a range of paradigms (clinical, epidemiological, biomedical and qualitative). The training in research methods is intended to give students an understanding of the scope of health and medical research and its contribution to knowledge in clinical and public health practice. It is also intended to contribute to students’ preparation for their research or capstone project, known as the MD Project.

MD Projects

All MD students must complete an MD Project by the start of Stage 3 Year 4. The MD Project is intended to be a scholarly investigation into a topic relevant to health or medicine, leading to a formal report submitted for summative assessment. Students’ MD Project work is based in their allocated Clinical School, or in the Clinical School of the Children’s Hospital at Westmead, the School of Rural Health at Dubbo or Orange, the University Centre for Rural Health at Lismore or the University Department of Rural Health at Broken Hill. Each student is allocated to an MD Project Group supervised by an academic staff member or affiliate. Typically an MD Project Group comprises about five students and a supervisor, who is known as a Research Tutor.

Students have the opportunity to express preferences for MD topic areas. Each year, prospective MD Tutors propose topic areas within their fields of expertise. Sydney Medical Program staff managing MD research processes allocate students to topic areas – and hence MD Project Groups and Research Tutors – that reflect students’ preferences as far as possible.

MD Project Groups are convened in the second half of the Stage 1 academic year. With Research Tutors’ guidance, each student identifies and undertakes a specific project in his or her allocated topic areas. Students who have substantial previous research experience and wish to pursue their previous line of research may be permitted to do so if appropriate additional supervision is available in the cognate field. This is determined on a case-by-case basis.

Each MD Project Group meets formally a total of six times between the latter part of Stage 1 and the latter part of Stage 3 Year 3. Each meeting corresponds to a project milestone that is formatively or summatively assessed. Students may not progress from Stage 1 to Stage 2 or from Stage 2 to Stage 3 if they have not adequately fulfilled the relevant milestone assessment criteria.

Students may submit their final MD Project report at the end of Stage 3 Year 3 or the beginning of Stage 3 Year 4. This will comprise a formal, fully-referenced scientific report of maximum length 3,000 words. While students may be permitted to collaborate in their research work, each MD Project Report must be an independent piece of work and will be examined as such. Students who produce the best MD Projects will be invited to present their work in a conference session at the end of Stage 3 Year 4 to an audience comprising their peers, students from Years 1-3 and members of staff.