SPs and Undergraduate Medical Education

The Penn Med curriculum is a four-year program. These are some of the courses in which students will encounter SPs:

Year One: August through December

Year Two: August through December

Years Two and Three: January through December - The Clerkship Year

Year Three: January through July

Click Here for a List of Themes

Graduate Medical Education

Other Collaborations


SPs are used at Penn to teach and assess in the following areas:

  • Breaking Bad News/Goals of Care
  • Confronting a Substance-Abusing Peer
  • Counseling about Driving and Dementia/Geriatric
  • Diabetes/Adherence to Care Plan
  • Disclosing Medical Errors
  • Dealing with an Upset Patient or Parent/Patient with Boundary Issues
  • Depression
  • Domestic Violence Counseling
  • Genetic Counseling/Pregnancy
  • General Introduction to Physical Exam, History-Taking
  • Health Literacy
  • Informed Consent
  • Interprofessional Education
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Physician-Assisted Suicide
  • Smoking Cessation Counseling
  • Veterans Affairs

MD 301: Doctor-Patient Relationship - Asthma, Knee Injury, Cancer, Diabetes, HIV Cases

  • SPs appear before students in a small group format with a faculty preceptor. Students take turns interviewing the SP and then discuss issues raised by the encounter pertaining to the doctor-patient relationship. Cases include asthma, knee pain, cancer, diabetes and HIV, and touch on many cultural issues, including religion and sexual orientation.

MD 306: Introduction to Clinical Medicine (ICM)

History Taking and Physical Exam Skills Practice

  • Second year medical students learn and practice interviewing and physical exam skills with SPs. Students receive feedback from faculty preceptors, SPs, and their fellow students. The course lasts 12 weeks and covers special topics such as taking a sexual history and interviewing and examining challenging patients. Students are tested twice during the course to assess their progress.

History Taking and Physical Exam Skills Tests - Putting It All Together

  • These two tests measure second year medical students’ progress in the ICM / MD 306 course, where they learn interviewing and physical exam skills. Students see an SP in a doctor’s office setting and must examine, interview, and advise the SP appropriately. Students receive verbal feedback from the SP and a student partner directly after the encounter.


MD 305: Differential Diagnosis

  • The culmination of lessons from ICM, Introduction to the Clinics addresses the gap between medical information and clinical data. The SP component of the course includes an interview and examination by a faculty member in a lecture hall. Students observe the SP faculty-SP encounter, then work in small groups to process and develop the differential diagnosis.

Doctoring II: Breaking Bad News; Discussing Advance Directives; Handling a Difficult Patient; Dealing with a Flirtatious Patient; Disclosing a Medical Error

In small groups, medical students take turns interviewing SPs to practice their skills dealing with a variety of challenging scenarios in the doctor-patient relationship. The course coincides with the clerkship year, so students have the opportunity to apply what they learn in the clinics.


Family and Internal Medicine Clerkship Objective Structured Clinical Examination (FIM OSCE)

This is the second part of the Family and Internal Medicine Shelf Exam. Second and third year medical students take this exam after they have interned in the clinics for several months. Students see four SPs, one-on-one, in a doctor’s office setting. Students must examine, interview, and advise SPs appropriately, as well as write a note and differential for each patient. Students also receive verbal feedback from the SPs directly after each encounter.

Clinical Skills Inventory (CSI)

Clinical Skills Inventory (CSI) is a summative clinical skills exam that assesses competency in the core clerkships, and prepares students for the USMLE Step 2 Clinical Skills (CS) exam. Penn Med students are required to pass the Clinical Skills Inventory (CSI) after they complete all required clerkships and before they begin their senior year.

CSI Penn Med lasts a full day, during which students see a series of SPs, one-on-one, in a doctor’s office setting. Students must examine, interview, and advise SPs appropriately, as well as write a patient note after each encounter.


MD/PhD Return to Clinics

The MD/PhD Reimmersion program is designed for MD/PhD Students who are returning to the clinics to work with patients after taking time off to focus on the PhD part of their education. This program is designed to give students the opportunity to refresh their clinical and interpersonal skills, and to get feedback on their skills in these areas. 


GME Programs

The SP Program works with GME programs throughout the health system (HUP, Presbyterian Medical Center, Pa. Hospital and other satellite practices):

  • Anesthesia Residents
  • Family Medicine Residents
  • Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) Fellows
  • NBME Clinical Skills Assessment Training and Pilot Exams
  • Palliative Care Residents, Fellows
  • Psychiatry Residents
  • Radiology Residents (ACGME Milestones)
  • Surgical Residents

Other Collaborations

In addition to its established role in UME and GME, the Penn Med SP Program's partners include: 

  • American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM)
  • Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)
    • Anesthesia Fellows
    • Hematology/Oncology Fellows
    • Neonatology Fellows
    • Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU)
  • Community Health Workers
  • Penn Med Academy/UPHS Administration
  • Penn School of Dental Medicine
  • Penn School of Nursing
  • Penn School of Social Policy & Practice
  • Penn School of Veterinary Medicine
  • UPHS Nursing Education

If you'd like more information about using Penn Med SPs in your GME or CME program, please contact us.