University of Sydney Handbooks - 2020 Archive

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Doctor of Medicine (pre-2020 enrolment)


Doctor of Medicine

Credit points required to complete


Time to complete full-time

4 years

Transitional arrangements

Students who commenced the Doctor of Medicine prior to 2020 will continue in that degree structure, and the Resolutions of the year of original enrolment will apply until all enrolled students from that year have graduated.

See the handbook archive for prior year resolutions.

Individual transitional plans will be made for students who may defer or need to repeat or suspend a year from the current program.

Course Outline

All Doctor of Medicine students must complete a unit of study in Research Methods and a research or capstone project.

The Sydney Medical Program features 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.

The curriculum is grouped around four themes:

  • Basic and Clinical Sciences Theme
  • Patient and Doctor Theme
  • Population Medicine Theme
  • Personal and Professional Development Theme.

The themes determine the curriculum content and specify graduate attributes in their respective domains.

The themes vary at different stages of the curriculum. The initial focus is on basic sciences and basic clinical skills, with progressively increasing emphasis on clinical knowledge, skills and judgement.

Academic Year

The Sydney Medical Program does not follow the usual semester pattern undertaken by other courses offered by the University of Sydney.

The Sydney Medical Program is a full-time course. Students are expected to be available to attend classes or other assigned activities five days per week.

The teaching is delivered in five blocks throughout each year. In Stage 2, the blocks range from four to 9-10 weeks’ duration.

All Stage 3 blocks are of eight weeks’ duration. Between most blocks, the timetable allows for a break of at least one week.

The academic year runs from:

  • early February to late November for Stage 2
  • mid-January to November for Stage 3, Years 3
  • January until December (including a remedial term in November-December) for Stage 3, Year 4
  • Students in Year 4 who are not required to undertake remediation will finish in late October.


Stage 2

The Stage 2 blocks are:

  • Neurosciences and Vision
  • Gastrointestinal System, Nutrition, Drug and Alcohol
  • Endocrinology and Sexual Health
  • Renal and Urology
  • Oncology and Palliative Care.

Within the Stage 2 Block, the curriculum is structured so that each week gives coherent coverage of a major aspect of the relevant body system or field of medicine. Enquiry-based learning methods serve to integrate and reinforce the week’s learning and are designed to develop students' ability to relate clinical problems to basic sciences, enhance their clinical reasoning abilities and enhance their teamwork skills.

Attendance at the enquiry-based learning tutorials are compulsory for all students and there are at least six plenary lectures each week. Plenary sessions allow direct interaction with staff and students.

Lectures provide a broad context for students’ own detailed learning. Lectures are complimented by seminars, interactive sessions and prescribed online learning.

Seminars are usually longer than lectures (1.5-2.0 hr compared with 1.0 hr) and often involve two or more speakers giving complementary expert perspectives on a topic.

Students also attend laboratory sessions each week. Laboratory sessions are linked to online materials and prepare students for practical work.

The teaching sessions are conducted in small groups and include bedside tutorials and tutorials in simulation laboratories to learn basic procedural skills. During SCORPIO sessions (structured, clinical, objective, referenced, problem-based, integrated, organised) students rotate through a number of stations with a short lecture-demonstration at each station.

Training in communication skills includes the use of actors, and training in physical examination skills includes the use of volunteers.

Large-group interactive tutorials, such as clinico-pathological conferences, are designed to link clinical learning and learning about pathology.

In addition to the formal teaching, students are expected to visit the wards singly or in pairs and (with appropriate permissions and consent) talk to patients and practice taking clinical histories and performing physical examinations.

Stage 3 (Years 3 and 4)

Students in Years 3 and 4 undertake a total of ten clinical blocks comprising nine eight-week terms and one four-week term.

Barrier assessments are held after the fourth term (in Year 3) and after the ninth term (in Year 4). The four-week term is a Pre-Internship Term, held after the final written assessment.

The nine eight-week terms are used for the following Blocks:

  • Core blocks
    - Medicine (Year 3)
    - Medicine (Year 4)
    - Surgery
    - Critical Care
  • Specialty Blocks
    - Community
    - Perinatal and Women's Health
    - Child and Adolescent Health
    - Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine
  • Elective.

Each cohort of students is divided into four streams, each stream doing eight of these Blocks in a different order. The timing of the elective is fixed for all four streams to be undertaken between January and March of Year 4.

All four streams begin Year 3 with a Core Block. The last Block before the final assessment in Year 4 is also a Core Block.

Practical clinical experience forms the substrate for all learning in Years 3 and 4, supported by a continuing structured teaching program. A balance is maintained between clerkship-based activities and scheduled teaching sessions.

Formats used include:

  • Lectures and seminars relevant to all four themes
  • Evidence-based medicine tutorials
  • Structured hands-on demonstrations
  • Interactive case presentations
  • Clinical reasoning sessions supported by information technology
  • Basic science updates
  • Clinico-pathological correlation sessions.
Core Blocks

The four Core Blocks in Years 3 and 4 are:

  • Medicine 3
  • Medicine 4
  • Surgery (SURG)
  • Critical Care (CC).

The Critical Care Block includes anaesthetics, emergency medicine and intensive care medicine.

Students participate in ward services and outpatient clinics in the teaching hospitals of their allocated Clinical Schools. They will be exposed to mainstream medicine and surgery, as well as to some subspecialty areas such as geriatrics, ophthalmology, urology and ear, nose and throat surgery.

One day each week (Friday) is dedicated to structured teaching, with topics drawn from all four curriculum theme areas. Time is also allocated for self-directed learning. At least half of each week is spent directly involved in the activities of the clinical service to which students are attached.

A progressive increase in clinical responsibility is expected as students progress through Stage 3 towards their final assessments and their Pre-Internship Term.

Students are allocated to one or more clinical supervisors for each of their Medicine, Surgery and Critical Care Blocks. The clinical supervisors are senior clinicians from the Disciplines or Sub-Disciplines where the student is located. For example, a neurologist and a geriatrician might act as supervisors for a student undertaking a Medicine Block which is composed of attachments to Clinical Departments of Neurology and Aged Care.

Students are required to contact their supervisors (or delegate) to arrange formal meetings on at least a weekly basis. A protocol of scheduled tasks must be completed to the supervisors' satisfaction over the duration of the attachment or Block. This assists in formulating an assessment of the student's progressive mastery of the knowledge and clinical skills relevant to the field concerned.

Specialty Blocks

The Specialty Blocks in Stage 3 are of eight weeks duration (including time for assessment and review), and are distributed throughout Years 3 and 4.

The four Specialty Blocks are:

  • Community (COM)
  • Perinatal and Women's Health (PWH)
  • Child and Adolescent Health (CAH)
  • Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine (PAAM).

Students undertaking Specialty Blocks participate in a variety of clinical activities in hospital wards and outpatient clinics and community-based clinics.

Not all of the teaching hospitals associated with the Clinical Schools offer a full range of specialty clinical services, and all students therefore rotate through sites other than their allocated base Clinical School.

These include The Children's Hospital at Westmead (for at least part of the Child and Adolescent Health Block) and private-sector general practice (for attachments during the Community Block).

All students will undertake 8 weeks of general practice and community health placements in a variety of settings including rural, remote area and urban practice.

Elective Block

The eight-week Elective Block, timetabled for the beginning of Year 4, provides students with an opportunity to extend their knowledge and understanding of healthcare through clinical and/or research placements. These placements may be undertaken in Australia or overseas.

As the intent is to expose students to healthcare settings other than those with which they are most familiar, students may not undertake electives in their own Clinical School other than in exceptional circumstances.

Elective placements and nominated local supervisors must be approved prospectively by Sydney Medical School. Supervisors are required to provide a report on the student's performance at the end of the elective. Students are required to complete a number of tasks relevant to their placement(s). These include appropriate preparation for the placement and a written report to be completed on return.

Students themselves are expected to fund travel, accommodation and other expenses for electives. While on approved placements, enrolled students are indemnified by the University of Sydney.

Pre-Internship Term

The Pre-Internship (PRINT) Term aims to provide the final preparation for internship, ensuring that interns will be competent and confident in their role.

In PRINT, each student is responsible for his/her own learning, and must also complete specified assessable tasks under observation by the allocated PRINT Supervisor (or delegate).

The PRINT Supervisor (or delegate) is responsible for making a recommendation to a final Sydney Medical Program Examination Committee on the student's readiness (or otherwise) for graduation and internship.

The PRINT Block is normally of four weeks’ duration.


The Doctor of Medicine is fully accredited by the Australian Medical Council (AMC). As a consequence, our graduates are eligible for provisional registration as interns in any Australian state or territory, and in New Zealand.

Mandatory and voluntary notification requirements

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) in partnership with the Medical Council of New South Wales, implements the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act 2009 (known as 'the National Law'). This applies to graduates of medical schools in NSW.

All medical students enrolled in Australian medical schools are registered with the Medical Board of Australia in accordance with processes of the AHPRA. Information about student registration can be found on the Medical Board Student Registration website.

AHPRA has developed guidelines under the National Law that provide direction to education providers, about the requirements for mandatory notifications of individual students. Students should make themselves familiar with the Guidelines for Mandatory Notifications on the Medical Board of Australia website. More information about reporting requirements can be found on the Medical Board Student Registration website.