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Non-Clinical Electives

Yale School of Medicine offers many diverse and challenging elective experiences for medical students, that are overseen by committed faculty members. There is an ongoing process to review and improve electives to ensure the greatest quality and variety of learning experiences.

Elective Catalog Listing

Advanced Surgical Anatomy Elective

The goal of this course is to introduce students to advanced surgical anatomy through a series of surgical dissections and procedures. The course will emphasize exploration of students’ interests and contributions to individual interests. The course aims to introduce or strengthen an interest in surgical careers. While traditional anatomy courses focus on identification of organs/structures and their function, this course will focus on pathology, development of a surgical plan and execution of the plan i.e., surgical treatment. Through cadaver dissection, simulation and lectures on relevant anatomy, the students will apply surgical approaches and techniques to treat pathology ranging from general surgery subspecialties, urology, orthopedics, ENT, neurosurgery, gynecology, and reconstructive plastic surgery. The emphasis will be on identification of anatomical structures, application of surgical techniques, and development of a surgical treatment plan.

The class is intended for 8-10 students and will meet weekly for 4 weeks in late spring. Preparation and review of relevant anatomy and surgical techniques outside of class will be required. Attendance at all sessions is mandatory for course completion. One session absence will be allowed, and emergencies and special circumstances will be evaluated on case-by-case basis.

Length of Rotation: 4 weeks, 3 full day sessions per week (Max. 8 students)

Scheduling Restrictions: Spring 2024: 3/25/24 to 4/19/24, Fall 2024 TBA

Student’s Class Level: 3rd, 4th and 5th year

Prerequisite(s): Completion of first two years of medical school, start of surgical clerkship, Completion of anatomy course

Accept Visiting Students: No

Learning Objectives

Creating Healthcare and Life Science Ventures

This course will give students a broad understanding of the major “new venture” opportunities in healthcare & medicine---healthcare delivery, healthcare IT and the digital health landscape, biotechnology, medical devices, and healthcare process redesign especially in the surgical space. In each of these areas, they will understand the canonical path to commercialization including how to identify “unmet clinical needs”, market opportunities; who is the customer; how to build interdisciplinary teams; regulatory hurdles to commercialization, and creation of a business strategy. The course is designed for a diverse student body including students from management, natural sciences, medicine, law, nursing and healthcare management program. The course comprises lectures, raw cases, guest speakers, and in-class projects with coaching from the venture investor community.

Classes are held in the Yale School of Management, Evans Hall.

Course Number: MD 1275 (MGT 657)

Evidence-Based Clinical Information Skills Elective: Cushing/Whitney Medical Library

The elective introduces students to three* of the 4 As of evidence-based practice: Ask, Acquire, Assess, as a framework for effective searching of the biomedical literature. Students will develop proficiency in identifying and appraising the best available evidence for patient care as part of their current and future clinical practice. Students will develop skills needed in order to apply existing and evolving biomedical literature to inform their care of patients and advance the health of individuals and populations.

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will use frameworks to structure their evidence-seeking practice.
  • Students will develop well-formed, focused, pertinent clinical questions. (Ask)
  • Students will use controlled vocabulary (e.g., MeSH) and keywords to construct a search strategy that reflects the current patient’s clinical state.
  • Students will identify appropriate sources and effectively and efficiently search the literature for evidence-based information for patient care. (Acquire)
  • Students will demonstrate skill in appraising sources, content, and applicability of evidence. (Appraise)
  • Students will search for biomedical data and apply data management concepts.

This elective may be delivered in a hybrid format.

*The elective will not cover the 4th A (Apply), as this process is best assessed during clinical training.

Length of Rotation: 2 weeks (40 hours) {Maximum students: 10-12 per rotation}

Schedule Restrictions: N/A

Student’s Class Level: 2nd, 3rd, 4th yr

Prerequisite(s): None

Grading Scale: Pass/Fail

Accept Visiting Students: No

Evolution and Medicine

Intended audience: undergraduates who have had at least one biology course and medical students taking it as an elective.

Class size: The class will be capped at 15 with the target roughly 50% undergraduates and 50% medical students.

Format: The course is flipped, by which I mean the lectures are recorded and available on the web. Each week the assigned lectures and corresponding assigned reading in the text should be viewed/read before coming to class. That assignment will be tested with short-answer quizzes and reading responses, which must be submitted before class. Those who have not submitted those responses will not be allowed to come to class. Class will consist of discussion of the points in the lectures and readings that were found to be difficult and of recent research papers relevant to the topic at hand.

Evaluation and grading: The course is writing intensive for undergraduates, who must sign up for a section led by a teaching fellow who will give most of the feedback on writing. Their writing assignment will be a paper of 15-20 pages on a topic in evolutionary medicine chosen by the student and developed through outlines and drafts with multiple opportunities for feedback and revision. The assignment for medical students will be to substantially improve the Wikipedia page on a topic of their choice in evolutionary medicine. There will be no midterm and no final. For undergraduates, the semester papers will count for 50% of the grade, class participation will count for 25%, and the answers to the weekly questions will count for 25%.

Students will have a required text for this course.

Course Numbers: MD 1300 (E&EB 235 / HLTH 250)


This course will cover fundamentals of inflammation from a broad biological perspective. Both physiological and pathological aspects of inflammation will be the focus of this course. This course is primarily for pre-clerkship medical students.

Course Numbers: MD 1350 (IBIO 532)

Life Worth Living Seminar

In an era where the prevalence of physician burnout is high, and there is much change in the profession, we ask ourselves, “What really matters?” “How should I live my life?”

We shall engage these questions in a small group discussion format, modeled after the course by the same name taught at Yale College (Humanities 411), and adapted for the Medical Center. This is a course of applied philosophy, where we address questions of meaning in our profession and reflect upon our own practice. In particular, we will explore the question “What makes a life worth living in medicine?”

We shall consider original texts and seminal works from Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam, as well as contemporary thought leaders and evidence-based research. Special attention will be given to the role that money, power, justice and social prestige play in shaping our profession. Also, we shall discuss how recent events have impacted our profession and own sense of purpose. We shall meet over seven weeks during the summer to accommodate those working on research projects.

Length: Summer session for 7 weeks (maximum 12 students)

Student Class Level: all Yale medical students

Prerequisite(s): n/a

Learning Objectives:

  1. Consider the societal and individual forces that shape “a life worth living” in medicine.
  2. Reflect upon the diversity of religious and philosophical perspectives and how they articulate meaning, value, and purpose.
  3. Apply the insights from the diverse religious and physician perspectives to inform one’s own opinion of a “life worth living.”
EL Neurology Advanced eXperience for Outstanding Neurology Students (AXONS) Elective

This year-long elective provides mentorship and exposure to careers in neurology. Students will participate in monthly group meetings and periodic mentorship meetings throughout the course of the year, as well as engage in a scholarly activity on their own time. Meetings will address the skills necessary for scholarly work in neurology, various aspects of applying for neurology residency, and information regarding careers in neurology. Participating students will be matched with near-peer as well as faculty mentors to assist in their residency/career preparation. In addition, students will have the opportunity to participate in clerkship educational activities and develop their skills as clinician educators. Credit for this elective will be based on completion of activities using a points system. This elective is graded Pass/Fail.

Learning Objectives

Spanish for Health Care Professionals

Spanish for Health Care Professionals is a hybrid course offered in Fall and Spring by the Yale Center for Language Study. This hybrid course will meet two times a week: one time in a traditional classroom on campus (face-to-face) and another time online. All students in this course will be required to have a laptop, a headset, and access to the high speed Internet to participate in the online component of the class. During the online meetings, the students will be expected to be in a quiet space where they will be able to participate in online oral discussions. The course site is located in Canvas and the online meetings will use the online conference tool Big Blue Button in Canvas. The course fee is $140 for students enrolled in a participating Yale Department or Program. The course fee for students not enrolled at Yale is $175, payable to the Yale University prior the start of the first class. You will be refunded the course fee if you drop within the first week (not later than 5:00pm of the first Friday). Should you drop after the first week, you (or your Program/School) will be responsible for the full course fee.

Required Placement Test: You will be given a brief placement test meant to gauge your current abilities and to assist us in placing you in an appropriate course. The placement test, including a video clip and a brief digital recording component, will ideally take no longer than 20 minutes of your time

If you have any questions, please contact:

Course Numbers: MD 1375

Seminar in Biomedical Ethics

Each morning and afternoon, you will participate in a 90-minute seminar, consisting of a 30-minute talk by a faculty member, followed by a 60-minute discussion. Subjects will include history of bioethics, clinical ethics consultations, narrative ethics, the role of bioethics in policy making, ethical issues in OB/GYN, ethical issues related to the care of those with mental illness, pediatric ethics, landmark cases, and more.

The faculty will include outstanding teachers at Yale such as Mark Mercurio, MD, MA, Jack Hughes, MD, Sarah Hull, MD, MBE, Ben Tolchin, MD, MS, Steve Latham, JD, Lori Bruce, HEC-C, Sarah Cross, MD and others, as well as guest faculty from other institutions. Students should anticipate playing an active role in the discussions.

In addition to class time, there will be up to two-three hours of reading daily. To sign up, please contact If you have any questions, please reach out to

Registration deadline: Feb 1, 2025

Dates: Feb 10-21, 2025, daily Monday through Friday

Time: 9:30 am to 2:30 pm (including an hour off for lunch)

Location: In person: Beaumont Room & ESH Room 20 (schedule to be shared)

Format: seminar, maximum 15 students

Student’s Class Level: Open to all medical students beyond the second year

Course director: Mark Mercurio, MD, MA

Seminar in Healer's Art

The Healer’s Art is an innovative discovery model course in values clarification and professionalism for first- through fourth-year medical students now offered annually at 90+ U.S. medical schools as well as medical schools around the world. Designed in 1991 by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D. and offered at Yale School of Medicine since 1999, the course offers a safe learning environment for a personal in-depth exploration of the time-honored values of service, healing relationship, reverence for life and compassionate care.

The Healer’s Art course utilizes principles of adult education, contemplative studies, humanistic and transpersonal psychology, cognitive psychology, formation education, creative arts and storytelling to present and explore human dimensions of medicine rarely discussed in medical training. Topics covered include deep listening, presence, acceptance, loss, grief, healing, relationship, encounters with awe and mystery and self-care practices. The curriculum enables students to uncover and strengthen the altruistic values, sense of calling and intention to serve that have led them to medicine, creating a firm foundation for meeting the challenging demands of contemporary medical training and practice.

In a rigorous standardized course evaluation, the thousands of students nationwide and internationally who take the course every year report that it fills a gap in their existing curriculum and enables them to make the practice of medicine uniquely their own.

Faculty are often as profoundly affected by the course as the students, reporting a renewal of their enthusiasm for teaching and their love of medicine. Students and faculty participate together in a discovery model that transcends the divisiveness of expertise to explore service as a way of life. The process-based curriculum takes a highly innovative, interactive, contemplative and didactic approach to enabling students to uncover and recognize the personal and universal meaning in the daily work of medicine.


The Healer’s Art Course seeks to:

  • Provide support for first- and second-year medical students in recognizing, valuing, enhancing and preserving the human dimension of health care.
  • Enable students and faculty to experience a collegial relationship that is nonjudgmental, noncompetitive and “harmless,” and to enable students and faculty to form a harmless relationship that offers all a unique professional support system and healing community.
  • Recognize the need for self-care in order to provide good patient care and avoid burnout.
  • Recognize grief as a self-care strategy for physicians, and identify strategies and tools of grieving.
  • Recognize that there are losses that cannot be fixed.
  • Recognize the presence of mystery and awe in the practice of medicine.
  • Develop greater comfort in discussing mystery, awe and death with peers.
  • Formulate a personal commitment to medicine and make that commitment visible among peers.
  • Legitimize openness and dialogue with colleagues and patients in the areas of service, mission and calling.
  • Recognize that who they are is as important to their patients as what they know.

The Healer’s Art Course will furthermore provide an opportunity for academic and community physicians to:

  • Consolidate at greater depth their understanding of a new paradigm of medical education.
  • Experience teaching from this new perspective.
  • Gain skill in small group participatory leadership.
  • Gain skill in the dissemination of innovative ideas.
  • Experience sharing the values of the Hippocratic Oath: compassion, service, harmlessness, reverence for life and covenant, with those at various levels of training.

Scheduling Restriction(s): Next offered in January 2025
Student’s Class Level: all students
Prerequisite(s): N/A

SE: Seminar in Narrative Medicine: Close Reading and Reflective Writing

This 6-session seminar explores the vital connection between storytelling and the art of healing. Narrative medicine integrates the power of literature with the practice of medicine, enriching healthcare delivery, provider well-being, and the patient experience.

We will examine diverse works, including fiction and non-fiction in a variety of formats such as short stories, popular press, memoirs, and other illness narratives. We will engage in reflective writing exercises inspired by these narratives, enabling participants to hone their voices while exploring the craft of storytelling.

We’ll learn how narrative medicine can:

  • Enhance patient care, by cultivating deeper empathy, improving communication skills, and building stronger collaborative relationships
  • Combat burnout, by fostering resilience and helping participants find new meaning in their clinical practice
  • Encourage self-discovery, by providing methods to explore personal experiences through reflective writing

Registration deadline: April 17, 2024
Length of Rotation: 6 weeks
Dates: April 25-May 30
Time: 4:30pm to 6:00pm on Thursday
Format: Seminar (maximum 10 students)
Student’s Class Level: Open to all medical students beyond the second year, and PA and RN students based on their schedule and availability.
Course director: Anne Merritt, MD, MS

Learning Objectives

SE Seminar in Poetry and Medicine Seminar, 2023

In a 2007 essay, Stephanie Burt and others wondered “Does poetry have a social function?” In that essay she argues that “one of poetry’s chief aims is to illumine the walls of mystery, the inscrutable, the unsayable.” She goes on to say that poetry is “an opportunity to learn to live in doubt and uncertainty.” Many of us pursue medicine in search of reason and precision and some of our greatest challenges in medicine, and in life, are when things are uncertain. It is here that poetry might help us and our patients. This elective seminar will explore poetry’s relevance to health care including students, doctors, nurses, physician assistants and our patients and their families.

The relationship between poetry and science has a long, rich history including such greats as John Keats (1795-1821), Oliver Wendel Holmes (1809-1894) and William Carlos Williams (1883-1963). Today, the tradition of physician-poet lives on in the work of such contemporary authors as C. Dale Young, Raphael Campo, Michael Salcman, Jack Coulehan, Audrey Shafer, Molly O’Dell, Richard Berlin and others. The false dichotomy between art and science is a modern concept. This course will explore how poetry can inform our pursuits as practitioners.

Length of Rotation: 6 weeks, next to be offered January – March 2025, exact dates TBD
Scheduling Restriction: Offered once annually
Student’s Class Level: 4th and 5th year MD, All years for other degree programs
Prerequisite: n/a
Accept Visiting Students: No

Learning Objectives

Teaching and Learning Center Medical Education Elective

This elective provides health care professional students with a unique opportunity to work together and explore their roles as teachers. The role of health care providers is deeply intertwined with their role as teachers - of patients and their families, of students, and of peers. The goal of this elective is to introduce health care professional students to their role as teachers. The elective makes use of didactic lectures, observations, group exercises, and teaching activities with the help of diverse and talented faculty in order to facilitate the development of the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to help students develop their experience and identity as teachers as they transition to the next phase of their career.

The objectives of the Education Elective are:

  1. To develop specific skills that will allow students to teach more effectively in various clinical and classroom scenarios.
  2. To observe and explore how to learn from role models in the workplace.
  3. To describe the characteristics of effective teachers.
  4. To describe the current state of health care education, with a focus on educational theory and evidence derived from the education literature.
  5. To develop the attitudes that place a strong emphasis on the value of teaching to promote learning.

Assessment will be built into the elective through self-reflection and feedback from peers and faculty. These will include homework assignments and teaching activities. Students will also be asked to self-assess their previous knowledge of and exposure to each of the topics described in the course. All students will complete a set of objective structured teaching encounters (OSTEs) at the end of the course. They will be directly observed by faculty facilitators.

Length of Rotation: 2 weeks (maximum-12 students)

Scheduling Restriction(s): Cancelled 2022 and 2023

Student’s Class Level: 3rd, 4th, 5th year and beyond for MD and/or MD/PhD. PA and RN students based on their schedule and availability.

Prerequisite(s): N/A

Accept Visiting Students: US - no; Int'l - yes. Visiting international students may combine this two-week elective with another elective to meet the four-week elective minimum requirement.

Learning Objectives

Uncertainty in Medicine: Critical Thinking and Decision Making Elective

The goal for this course is to recognize that while much of medical education is traditionally centered on accrual of information for rapid recall, the healthcare profession is riddled with uncertainty and incomplete information. Healthcare providers are faced with multi-dimensional and multi-disciplinary problems whose solutions require a combination of rigor, creativity and collaboration. While our current approach to medical education is only reinforced by emphasis on short-answer standardized tests as metrics of aptitude, this course aims to combat that emphasis and prepare students for the complexities of the medical field by focusing on critical thinking and problem-solving skills in a case-based collaborative environment.

The seminar is intended for 16-20 students. It will meet weekly at noon for 6-8 weeks from mid-June to early August. Preparation outside of class time will also be required. We will use case-based exercises to analyze topics that have contemporary relevance to be medicine, e.g. development of screening programs for cancer or reporting and reduction of medical error.

These exercises will utilize collaborative approach aimed at developing several distinct skills: defining the scope of a complex problem; reducing a problem into definable parts; examining each part from multiple angles; prioritizing the parts and their potential solutions; and committing to an actionable solution while acknowledging unaddressed complexities and unknowns.

Course Numbers: MD 1325