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In September 2005, the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster University introduced a completely new curriculum called The COMPASS curriculum. The curriculum focuses on the mastery of fundamental concepts of in medicine. The COMPASS curriculum aims to ensure that our graduates have a good working understanding of biological, psychological and social mechansims and processes, as well as their impact on health and disease, based on principles of learning drawn from cognitive psychology. The COMPASS curriculum is structured to allow the integration of critically important fundamental concepts in medicine and affords an opportunity for students to have the time to practice applying these concepts to multiple different clinical problems.


Curriculum Outline

Curriculum Outline


The COMPASS curriculum is designed to allow McMaster medical students to attain the following competencies, based on the CanMEDS roles:

  • To be able to apply a knowledge of basic mechanisms of health and disease within the biological, behavioural and population perspectives to manage common clinical presentations in each of the body systems.
    • To understand problems that arise from inspired air through to oxygen at the cellular level; exploration  of the respiratory, cardiovascular and hematologic systems.
    • To understand aspects of homeostasis relating to energy balance; investigation of GI tract, endocrine system and nutrition 
    • To continue the exploration of homeostasis with focus on the renal system, acid and base, blood pressure, reproduction and issues in genetics relating to reproduction.
    • To understand the ways the body deals with dangerous agents that threaten its survival, exploring host defense, including immunology and infectious diseases, and neoplasia and the genetics of neoplasia.
    • To understand the concepts of movement control and interacting and communicating, which includes the locomotor system, the nervous system, and behaviour, including an introduction to psychiatry.
    • Clerkship:  To apply and deepen the knowledge previously gained to develop an approach to the management of common clinical presentations in all body systems. 
  • To demonstrate the professional skills of verbal data-gathering, physical examination, procedural skills, data interpretation, clinical reasoning and critical appraisal of the evidence.
  • To be able to incorporate clinical, patient and system factors into clinical decisions.
  • To demonstrate effective communication with peers, patients and members of the healthcare team and be competent to work successfully in an interprofessional team.
    • To recognize that being a good communicator is an essential function of a physician, and understand that effective patient-physician communication can foster patient satisfaction and compliance, as well as influence the manifestations and outcome of a patient’s illness. 
    • To demonstrate competence in communicating about the patient as a member of a multidisciplinary healthcare team.
    • To Identify and perform the essential elements/tasks of communication in a medical interview as delineated in the Kalamzoo Consensus Statements. 
    • To understand and demonstrate the importance of cooperation and communication among health professionals involved in the care of individual patients.
    • To be able to integrate moral reasoning and judgment with communication, interpersonal, and clinical skills to provide the patients with effective and  ethical care
  • To be able to describe the factors including public policy, fiscal resources and team function that contribute to the delivery of effective healthcare as a system as well as individual patient level, particularly applied to quality healthcare improvement and patient and healthcare worker safety.
  • To recognize the diverse factors that influence the health of the individual and the community.
  • To identify the sociocultural, psychological, economic, occupational, environmental, legal, political and spiritual factors impacting health and health care delivery
  • To respond to these factors by planning and advocating the appropriate course of action at both the individual and community level.
  • To be keenly aware of the physician’s role in primary, secondary and tertiary prevention, as part of everyday patient care. 
  • To be aware that the physician has a role in health promotion for both individual patients and their community­­. 
  • To develop a critical understanding of various approaches to cultural competency.
  • To develop a set of skills and attitudes that foster cultural safety.
  • To recognize the influence of oppression in its various forms.
  • To be able to view health through a “gender lens”. 
  • To understand historical perspectives on Aboriginal health, as well as current challenges and new initiatives. 
  • To demonstrate  an awareness of key health challenges faced by immigrants and refugees.
  • To develop an appreciation for different “ways of knowing” about the body, and how this affects the clinical encounter. 
  • To have an appreciation for the social science perspective on medical practice.
  • To know how individuals develop capacity for moral thought and how personal values impact on moral reasoning
  • To know the legal and moral duties of a medical student
  • To employ and critically evaluate ethical theories and principles when exploring learning scenarios.
  • To recognize ethically sensitive situations and dilemmas in medical practice and identify key ethical considerations.
  • To be able to identify ethical issues and dilemmas in his/her own clinical experiences related to patient care, institutional practices and health policies.
  • To be able to search for and manage research evidence in an effective and efficient manner.
  • To be able to appraise and apply acquired knowledge effectively to individuals and populations.
  • To demonstrate insight into personal values, assumptions and beliefs and their impact on the practice of medicine.
  • To be sensitive to the value system of patients and others.
  • To recognize personal limits in knowledge; to self-assess and self-correct.
  • To demonstrate an active commitment to the pursuit of knowledge and to have started a plan for lifelong learning to maintain competency.
  • To practice professionalism as it applies to medical student practice including formal education and clinical experiences and informal functioning within the Faculty of Health Sciences.
  • To understand the importance of personal and professional ethics.
  • To recognize personal strengths and limitations relevant to his/her practice of medicine.
  • To manage performance and interpersonal feedback as part of training and practice.
  • To identify and address problems/issues that might affect his or her own health, well-being, or professional capabilities.
  • To cope adaptively with stresses likely to occur during medical training and practice.

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