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Survey conducted by Christopher M. Reilly, Via College of Osteopathic Medicine and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
May 2006

Survey Results


There were 37 responses and the results from the responders are summarized below.

The average for the total lecture hours devoted to Medical Physiology not including neurophysiology was approximately 91 hours. The maximum was 178 hours and the minimum was 62. There were 2 schools that did not have a physiology based course but physiology was combined into an integrated curriculum. The large discrepancy in the number of hours was mainly due to the hours that were given to PBL style or small group conferences. The largest number of hours devoted to small group conferences or PBL in physiology in a traditional curriculum was 45 hours. The hours devoted to either small group conferences or PBL varied as well. Some of the PBL or small group learning sessions were not included as part of the physiology course. For those that did include PBL, small group discussions, or case correlates the average was approximately 20 hours.


The breakdown for the specific lecture hours taught for physiology was as follows:

Topic  Average  Maximum  Minimum 
 General/Cell  10 25
 CV/Circulatory  21 38 15
 Respiratory  12 26
 GI  9 21 
 Endo/Reproduction  15 35 
 Renal and Acid/base  15 28  10 
 Other  10 17 


There were two schools that taught endocrine/reproduction as a separate course and three schools that taught a cell biology course separate from physiology.

In regard to neurophysiology, 16 of 37 schools or approx 43% had a separate neurophysiology course that was taught. For schools with a separate neurophysiology course the average was 9 hours.  

Other topics included in the physiology curriculum covered were thermoregulation, exercise, high altitude physiology, fluid compartments, aging, metabolism, nutrition, hemorrhage/shock, and blood clotting. 


Additional Information 
Comments on case-based or small-group discussions 

We have PBL sessions (1.5 hrs/wk) that are separate from Basic Science Courses.

Provided in a few laboratory/discussion sessions each semester.

In addition to 110 lectures (below), our integrative function of the human body (FHB) course has 22 small groups sessions, 12 histology sessions and 12 conferences @2 hours, plus 5 laboratories for 11 hours which are not accounted for in this survey (about one half our 213-hour course is non-lecture based).

10 (strictly speaking, although another 18 small groups on cases).

22 (In additional to lectures we have small and large group case-based discussions).

12 (We have six 2 hr Clinical Applications of Physiology sessions. Some of these are done as team-based learning sessions, and next year we plan to use this format for all six.)

We don’t utilize a case-based curriculum, but do discuss cases as part of our physiology course.

We do not have a case-based curriculum, however, several of the courses have Clinical Case sessions, which often include physiology.  We are also using the Team-Based Learning sessions in our biennium I curriculum.  Again, most of the courses have several TL sessions as part of their curriculum.  For example, in the Year 1 course, there are no case sessions.  However, there are 4 TL sessions, and they are a combination of basic physiology and clinical science.

We have a total of 8 case-based hours in the course (although we have a traditional lecture-based curriculum).

Faculty spend 26 hours in laboratories and 5 hours in case conferences.

We do not have a “case-based curriculum,” but each of the major units of the course (cardio, pulm, renal/acid-base, GI, and endocrine) has a clinical case that is a take-home exercise.  Groups of 4 students are assigned to work on the case and then turn it in at the end of the unit.  The combined cases count for 15% of the student’s grade.


Questions regarding physiology course directors

The time allotted for the physiology course director varied greatly depending on the type of curriculum and how the schools reported faculty effort.  There were two way hours were reported, either as a percent effort (FTE) based on 100% (e.g. 1.0 =100% time, 0.3 =30% of time) of the workload or the numbers of hours given to the faculty member to direct the course.


For those schools that reported the time as an FTE

  • 1 school allotted a 1.0 FTE or 100% effort
  • 2 schools allotted 0.5 FTE
  • 3 schools allotted 0.4 FTE
  • 6 schools allotted 0.3 to 0.39 FTE
  • 3 schools allotted 0.2-0.29 FTE
  • 1 school allotted <0.2 FTE


For schools that reported effort as a number of hours, the following were given:  

  • 1 school over 500 hours
  • 1 school 400-499 hours
  • 2 schools 200-299 hours
  • At the other institutions FTE efforts were either unknown, or N/A.


Other general comments 


No FTE are specifically allotted for faculty teaching but 10 FTE are on the course committee and even more contribute through our team teaching approach. There is 0.25 FTE for administrative assistance, although I learned today the school may pull that!

The course coordinator is allotted 0.85 FTE for all teaching activities, of which coordination of the Physiology course involves approximately half that commitment.  Therefore, the FTE for the Physiology course coordination is around 0.45 FTE.

Not sure what “FTE” means.  We are still figuring that out at [X].

According to our mission-based budgeting plan—Zero.

Not formally defined. Reality is about 0.7 FTE for faculty/staff combined.

We have a curriculum coordinator who is not in physiology, we have 3 units over the course of the year, 1 coordinated by a physiology faculty.


Time allotted per contact hours of classroom interaction

For schools that listed the number of hours allotted the teaching of physiology per contact hour of lecture; the breakdown was as follows:

  • 2 schools gave over 10 hours per contact hour
  • 5 schools gave 7-10 hours
  • 4 schools gave less than 5 hours 

Some comments included:

None allotted specifically.

Five physiology faculty participate in the Human Physiology course, and on average, each faculty lectures and conducts small groups for a 2-3 week period of 6-8 hours/week.  On average, then, each faculty is allotted 20% FTE for their teaching commitment in the Human Physiology course.

In our medical school, we have an integrated curriculum.  Thus, there is no medical physiology course, per se.  In Year 1, we teach an integrated cell biology, cell physiology, histology, and introductory systems physiology course in a single 10-week course called Cells, Tissues, and Organ Systems.  Year 2 consists of a series of content courses, such as Renal, Respiratory, Endocrine/Reproduction, etc.  Each of these courses has a physiology component along with pathology, pharmacology, etc.  Also, each of these courses has its own course director.

The total FTE allotment for the Physiology Course is 50%.  Out of the 50%, 25% of  the FTE is directly related to coordinating and scheduling of lectures, providing students with lectures notes via manual and Blackboard (electronic course management software).

N/A   The entire course is taught by our 5 tenure-track faculty, each being responsible for one of the major units.

This level of detail is not used at our institution for FTE accounting.

No formal allocation, estimate 3-10 hours per lecture hour depending on teaching experience of lecturer as well as familiarity with the topic.


Medical Physiology Lecture Mini-Survey

  1. How many lecture hours do you provide for Physiology lecture (not including neuro): _________

    How many hours are devoted to each of the following areas?
      General, Cell, and Muscle  _____________
      Cardiovascular/circulatory _____________ 
      Respiratory _________
      GI __________
      Endocrine/reproduction ________________
      Renal/acid-base ______________
      Neurophysiology  _____________
                Is this combined with neuroanatomy or are they separate? ________________
      Other ________________ 
          (please specify-e.g. sports, immune function, molecular physiology) __________________
  2. If you have a case-based curriculum, how many hours do you provide 
         with cases ________
         without cases __________
  3. How many hours are allotted (or FTE's) for the course coordinator of Medical Physiology?  _________________ (be sure to mark Hour or FTE)
  4. Per contact hour of lecture, how many hours of FTE are allotted?  ________