Course Descriptions

The following courses (with both brief description and an approximation of the hours of in-classroom instruction) comprise the didactic phase of the Yale Physician Associate Program. They are designed to build the foundation in basic and clinical sciences that underlies the study of medicine and PA practice. As in many of Yale University's other graduate and professional degree programs, there are no specific course credit hours assigned to each course; rather, the students must successfully complete each of the below-listed courses as the class progresses through the didactic curriculum.

Introduction to Research

Introduction to Research provides an overview of important statistical principles and methods and their application to problems in medicine and health. The course introduces students to research design and scientific inquiry and provides them with the skills necessary for interpretation and critical evaluation of the medical literature. (~25 hours)

During the second year of the program, two months are set aside as dedicated research time, during which the students collaborate with a faculty advisor from the Yale School of Medicine to prepare their thesis projects. The principles of research and statistical methods introduced during the didactic research course serve to prepare the students for the work ahead.

Clinical Genetics

The Clinical Genetics course introduces the PA student to concepts of patterns of inheritance, formulation of the family history, reviews genetic abnormalities and pharmacogenetics.  Indications for genetic testing and counseling are also reviewed.

Clinical Practicum

Clinical Practicum provides the PA student with an introduction to the clinical milieu and contact with patients at Yale-New Haven Hospital during the second half of the didactic phase. Using the skills learned in the Physical Examination course, students examine patients and perform histories and physical examinations. Students meet in small groups with preceptors to discuss findings and appropriate charting as well as to practice patient presentations. (~45 hours)

Clinical Psychiatry

Clinical Psychiatry provides an overview of common clinical problems in psychiatry and psychopathology. The course includes sessions on psychoneuroses, psychosomatic disorders, behavioral disorders, psychotherapy, and substance abuse. (~16 hours)

Anatomy class

First year students during a Human Anatomy lecture.

Human Anatomy

Students develop their psycho-motor skills with full-anatomy cadaver dissections performed in small groups of four to six students. These labs are supplemented with lectures covering the systematic and developmental anatomy of the human body, with faculty in Yale's Department of Surgery utilizing surgical and medical case studies as a vehicle to teach anatomy within a clinical context. State-of-the-art computer-based learning with online self-assessment and hologram and imaging techniques are used in the study of anatomy to improve spatial ability and to help the students think three-dimensionally. (~100 hours)

Diagnostic Imaging

Diagnostic Imaging presents principles of radiology and diagnostic imaging interpretation alongside the coinciding Medicine and Surgery modules, focusing on the use of appropriate radiological resources in the diagnosis and management of patients. Examination of normal radiographs is followed by examination and discussion of abnormalities caused by both trauma and disease. (~20 hours)

Surgery & Surgical Skills

The surgery course teaches methods of sterile technique, basic surgical procedures and care of the surgical patient. Students learn operating room protocol, surgical scrubbing and gowning, fundamentals of general anesthesia and airway management, and practice several suturing techniques, including training with Yale faculty in the small live animal laboratories. (~20 hours)

Medicine & Surgery

The most extensive course in the curriculum, organized into sixteen blocks covering areas such as Cardiology (including ECG interpretation), Nephrology, Neurology, Orthopedics, Otolaryngology, Pediatrics, and Pulmonary Medicine. Each block correlates with corresponding sections of Physiology and Pathology. This course is taught by Yale University School of Medicine.

Microbiology & Infectious Diseases

Microbiology teaches students to identify the various pathogens responsible for human disease. Lectures include bacteriology, mycology, parasitology, and virology.


Pathology explores the etiology of organic and systemic disease. Lectures corresponding to the medicine and surgery schedule are integrated throughout the didactic phase.


Pharmacology focuses on the principles of pharmacologic action, and the therapeutic indications for pharmaceutical preparations used in clinical medicine. Drug side effects and contraindications are discussed in detail.

History Taking & Physical Exam

Physical Examination teaches the basics of history taking and physical examination skills and techniques. In addition, the pelvic, male genitalia, and rectal exams are taught in special sessions by gynecological and urological teaching assistants. This course precedes the clinical practicum course.


The Physiology course has seven components: cellular, cardiovascular, renal, respiratory, gastrointestinal, endocrine, and neurophysiological. Each section precedes the relevant Medicine and Surgery block.

Preventive Medicine

The Preventive Medicine curriculum focuses students on issues of screening, prophylaxis, and patient education. Risk factor assessment, counseling, immunization requirements, etc. are discussed.


As electives, these courses are optional for PA students.

Global Health Elective

This elective is intended for students in the allied health sciences to develop an understanding of and competence in the sociopolitical, economic and cultural aspects of global health.  As the course involves both students and faculty from all of the health professional schools, its participatory and collaborative nature provides a rich environment for interdisciplinary dialogue.

Spanish for Health Care Professionals

This 8-week long practical course is designed to improve participants' Spanish language and cultural skills to better understand and connect with patients.  The course focuses on the language and cross-cultural communication skills that are most relevant for clinical practice.