The Human Body: Integrative Function and its Cellular Basis

Course Description

Physiological processes are essential for survival, and, in essence, define life itself. These processes maintain homeostasis, acquire and deliver nutrients, eliminate waste products, initiate movements, and underlie our very thoughts and emotions. Indeed, most diseases can be thought of as “physiology gone bad”. Thus, understanding basic physiological concepts is central to the practice of medicine. Furthermore, since function is reflected in form, a knowledge of the structure of cells, tissues, and organ systems provides critical insight into the mechanisms that underlie physiological processes. In this block, you will learn how organs work in an integrated fashion to sustain life (physiology), and how their structure, at the cellular level, supports their functions (histology).

Much of the material in this block is conceptual. Many students have told us that our course material requires more conceptual integration than is usual for many first year courses. This makes the course material more interesting, but harder simply to memorize. For this reason don't let the material get ahead of you, and don't hesitate to ask for help from the course faculty. Although a number of review sessions are scheduled before exams, don't wait until then to ask your questions. Email us, contact us through the Forum, or catch us before, during, or after class. We also hope that you will come to us if you would like more information on any topic or if you have suggestions that will help us teach more effectively.

Course Objectives

To provide the background necessary to understand the normal functioning of the cardiovascular, endocrine, respiratory, renal, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems. You will learn how cells communicate (via hormonal and synaptic events), how homeostasis is maintained (through molecular feedback mechanisms), and how physical forces (electric, osmotic, and mechanical) are generated and harnessed in the pursuit of complex physiological activities. You will also learn to recognize the microscopic appearance of normal cells and tissues, and become familiar with how these structural features are related to functional activities at the cell and organ levels. In addition, through small group exercises, problem sets, and clinical correlations, you will have opportunities to use your knowledge of basic science to understand pathophysiological situations. This will prepare you for the diseases that you will encounter in second-year courses, and, ultimately, in the patients that you will see in your clinical practice.