LHB Curriculum

Curriculum and Paracurricular Activities of the LHB Program

All LHB students must fulfill the curriculum requirements of their home PhD Program. The required courses for LHB are listed below (Note that we have dropped the requirement for an elective, as well as the quarter course, "Translational Pharmacology").

The following courses are required for all LHB students:

HBTM 301qc (also called HB233). Case Studies in Human Biology and Translational Medicine (G1 January term, quarter course). (Note that this is not a Boot Camp course as it only runs for 1.5 hours in the morning.)

BCMP 234. Cellular Metabolism and Human Disease (G1 or G2 Spring semester)

HBTM 200 (also called HT035). Principles and Practice of Human Pathology (G1 or G2 Spring semester)

HBTM 235. Principles of Human Disease: Physiology and Pathology (G2 or G3 Fall semester)

HBTM 301qc (HB233): Case Studies in Human Biology and Translational Medicine (January G1 Year)

HBTM 301qc is a two-week course (9 days) that is required for first-year LHB students. The course starts during the first week in January, and attendance is mandantory.  Each class lasts only for 60-90 minutes so that students can also do a lab rotation during this time.  The course is held in a conference room at the New England Journal of Medicine editorial offices on the 6th floor of the Countway Library at HMS.  Enrollment in HBTM 301qc is required for, and restricted to, students in the LHB program, and will count as a quarter-course.

Each week of the course focuses on a different “case study” in translational medicine.  These case studies are selected to represent examples in which fundamental discoveries in human disease biology led to the development of new therapeutic approaches.  In the process of reviewing these case studies and in the critical reading of selected papers, the LHB students will also learn some of the basics of clinical trial design and the principles of clinical epidemiology.  

HBTM 301qc consists of lectures and small group discussions that focus on papers selected from the basic science and clinical literature, and which culminated in the publication of seminal papers in the New England Journal of Medicine.  These papers serve as a platform for the analysis of research methods in human biology as well as providing examples of recent advances in human biology that have provided new insights into the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of human disease. These same papers serve as a basis for teaching LHB students the fundamentals of experimental design and biostatistics in basic and clinical research.  Professor Jeffrey Drazen, editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, will serve as course director, and is joined by two NEJM associate editors and members of the HMS faculty, Drs. Caren Solomon and Mary Beth Hamel. Each of the two weeks will focus on a different case study. This course provides an essential component of the educational process for obtaining the statistical power of experimental observations in both basic and clinical investigations, for assessing the outcomes of novel therapies, and for dissecting the complexities of genetic and environmental effects.

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BCMP 234: Cellular Metabolism in Human Disease (Spring G1 or G2 Year)

This course explores the relationships between cellular and organismal metabolism and human disease, and uses a combination of lectures, critical reading conferences, and patient encounters to explore the molecular basis for human metabolic derangements ranging from starvation to diabetes. The course meets three times per week, and includes lecture sessions (typically on Mondays), student-led critical reading conferences with expert faculty (Wednesdays), and classroom-based patient encounters and/or therapeutic correlations on Fridays. Lectures focus on key metabolic pathways, including: biochemical mechanisms for the uptake and metabolism of glucose; the transport and transformation of lipids and lipoproteins; metabolism of calcium, iron, nucleotides, prostaglandins and fatty acids; and the organismal pathways involved in starvation, satiety and obesity. Examples are drawn from human genetic and acquired diseases that involve these pathways. Critical reading conference sessions explore metabolic pathways both at the molecular and cellular level and in the context of specific organ systems and disease states. These critical reading conferences review selected research papers in human metabolism and disease states, including diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, obesity, and starvation. The connections among metabolic pathways, clinical therapeutics and human disease are also explored. The lecture and conference sessions are integrated with clinical encounters, including direct patient interactions in the classroom. These patient encounters also review the application of molecular principles to diagnostic and therapeutic strategies in the management of these metabolic disorders. Student presentations in later weeks of the course review additional metabolic pathways in human inborn or acquired metabolic diseases, the roles of vitamins as enzyme cofactors, as well as the impact of metabolic diseases on specific organ systems. Class meets at HMS on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 9-10:30 AM. Monday lectures are presented in live interactive videoconference format from HMS (Countway Library, room 403) to and from the Harvard College campus (Division of Continuing Education, 1 Story Street, room 304). Wednesday critical reading discussion sections are held at HMS and in Cambridge, with specific rooms to be determined. Friday clinical correlations are held only at HMS in the Cannon Room (Building C) and are not videoconferenced to Cambridge.

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HBTM 200 (HT035): Principles and Practice of Human Pathology (Spring G1 or G2 Year)

This semester-length course in the spring term of G1 year offered by the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology (HST) Program provides a comprehensive overview of human pathology, with emphasis on mechanisms of disease and modern diagnostic technologies. Topics include: general mechanisms of disease (inflammation, infection, immune injury, host response, transplantation, genetic disorders and neoplasia); pathology of lipids, enzymes and molecular transporters; pathology of major organ systems; and review of diagnostic tools. The course has integrated lectures and labs, as well as a student driven term project. The course is recommended for the G1 Spring semester, but can be taken during a later year.

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HBTM 235: Principles of Human Disease: Physiology and Pathology (Fall G2 Year)

This course was designed for PhD students and presents fundamental mechanisms of human physiology and disease or selected organ systems. Using a combination of interactive large-group lectures and case-based small group tutorials, the course is organized around 6-7 organ systems. Core principles of human physiology and selected pathological mechanisms are presented. Examples are drawn from cancer biology, cardiovascular diseases, reproductive disease, and neurodegenerative disease. The course has two lectures and one tutorial session per week. The tutorials cover 5 cases, with 2-3 sessions dedicated to each case. The first of the tutorial sessions covers the medical presentation of a patient, with the second session establishing an understanding of the known mechanisms and diagnostics for the disease. The final session is one in which students suggest new avenues towards understanding and/or treating the disease. Meeting time: M., W., F., 9-10:30, Fall semester, typically during the G2 Year, but can also be taken in later years. It is recommended to take this course prior to the clinical experience.

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BCMP 301qc: Translational pharmacology (January term G2 Year)

This course has been highly recommended by LHB students (it used to be required, but is no longer as of 2017). This is an intensive course held during the first two weeks of January (nine days) covering basic principles of pharmacology and how they are translated into the development of new drugs.  Students participate actively in project groups  composed of both graduates students and post-graduate M.D.'s to propose a strategy for drug development from target choice through clinical trials.  There are two hours of lectures each of the first eight mornings; in the afternoons , there are case studies discussed by guest faculty from the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, a discussion of a research paper, or time to work on the group project.  Evaluation is based on the project and class participation.

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Clinical Experiences for LHB Students

Two courses will permit LHB PhD students to directly encounter the practice of medicine, from the viewpoint of a physician and a patient. The choice of course is up to the student, and every effort is made to match a student with their clinical interest. One of the following two courses is required, and students can elect to take both courses. The Disease-Centered Tutorial and Clinic (HBTM340) will take place one half-day each week during the G2 Spring semester (but timing is flexible, can be taken in later years). Each weekly session will be organized around a clinic at one of the HMS affiliated hospitals with a one-hour tutorial (led by a physician-scientist member of the faculty) that highlights the scope of medical problems being addressed in the particular clinic, after which the students will “shadow” a physician-scientist as s/he evaluates the patients in the clinic. Each week, up to two students will participate in a given clinic and some examples include: AIDS Clinic (MGH), Breast Cancer Clinic (DFCI), Vascular Medicine Clinic (BWH), Metabolic Diseases Clinic (CHMC), Movement Disorders Clinic (BIDMC), Colon Cancer Clinic (MGH), and Sickle Cell Clinic (BWH), among others. At the conclusion of the course, students will write up a synopsis of their experience, or present a particular case in depth, and then provide an oral presentation to the LHB Program.

An alternative clinical experience is the Mentored Clinical Casebook Course (MCCB, MR700), to begin in November/December of Year 2 (or later year) and to continue through May. A clinical mentor selects a patient for the each student to follow closely for six months. The student learns about the patient’s disease, its biological determinants, its interplay with the patient as person, and how it effects and is affected by the patient’s environment. Students keep a journal of their encounters with the patient, including self-reflections, and select some aspect(s) of the case of particular interest. In addition, since MCCB is an elective for first year medical students, graduate and medical students are joined together in small group sessions focused on discussions of their patients. In consultation with the clinical mentor and an additional faculty advisor, students write up their case in a progressive fashion. They then present their case to course faculty and students, and in a second session, to the LHB Program.

Additional courses

There are many Quarter Courses and Nano Courses that are focused on specific human diseases, including courses (for example) on Diabetes, Amyloidosis, and Atherosclerosis, among others. The Quarter Course and Nano Course formats are ideal for the presentation of core concepts in specific human disease states, and for the exploration of connections between basic biological concepts and the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease. Additionally, a broad range of elective courses are available that span topics from biomaterials and tissue engineering to cancer biology to advanced biostatistics. Suggestions of some electives can be found on the LHB web site, and through the web sites of the HST, HMS, DMS, and other HILS Programs. In addition, courses at MIT can be considered.

Paracurricular Activites

In addition to these courses, LHB students are involved in ongoing paracurricular programs.  There are several sessions per year of the “LHB/MD-PhD Grand Rounds”.  A discussion of a case from an area hospital is presented by an attending physician to MD-PhD and LHB students. This is followed by a short, relevant research presentation from an  LHB or MD/PhD student. Students and faculty from the LHB program also participate in an annual half day  retreat that highlights distinct aspects of translational research in different years. This retreat includes workshops, a poster session, as well as talks, by LHB students, and attendance is required of all LHB students. For career development, several times a year, LHB students host a speaker who shares their career experiences in translational research.

In addition to the above, students get together for various social activities, including a beer hour at a local pub, apple picking, etc. We also have a welcome dinner for new students in December, and a Program Retreat in January.

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