University of Pittsburgh
Foundations of Medicine

Cell Communication and Pharmacology

October 15, 2018-October 29, 2018
11 half days

Course Director
Donald B. DeFranco, PhD 
Department of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology

Course Director
Michael Lynch, MD
Assistant Professor
Department of Emergency Medicine


Course Description

This 2-week course covers basic cellular signaling and pharmacological principles to illustrate mechanisms of normal and abnormal cell communication as well as strategies to use drugs to restore cellular, tissue and/or organ function.

The goals of the course are:

1. introduce basic pharmacological principles, including receptor biology (particularly adrenergic and cholinergic receptors), dose-response relationships, absorption, distribution, metabolism, elimination, and toxicity.

2. present principles of drug action and administration that govern rational drug selection and usage, including pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics, i.e., considerations in designing and adjusting a drug regimen.

3. encourage students early in their medical school career to integrate basic and clinical science and to explore the interactions of chemicals with biological systems.

The 10 faculty members involved are from 5 medical school departments including Pharmacology and Chemical Biology, Medicine, Emergency Medicine, Ophthalmology, Anesthesiology, Environmental and Occupational Health and the School of Pharmacy.

Educational Methods

Lectures Pharmacology workshops (in class and small group) Self-directed VpSim web-based learning modules Case studies


Evaluation for this course is based on performance on one exam and participation in three small group session.

Grading: This course comprises of 20% of the grade for the Foundations of Medicine Block, Section 2. Grading for the block is Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory.

Faculty Note

Course Director Don DeFranco, PhD, is a recipient of the Provost’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring, Excellence in Education Award, the Sheldon Adler Award for Innovation in Medical Education and the Kenneth E. Schuit Master Educator Award. Stevan Tofovic, MD, PhD, is a recipient of the Kenneth E. Schuit Master Educator Award. William McIvor, MD, is a recipient of the Donald S. Fraley Award for Medical Student Mentoring and the Clerkship Preceptor of the Year Award. Evan Waxman, MD, PhD, is a recipient of the Kenneth E. Schuit Master Educator Award and the Clerkship Preceptor of the Year Award. Members of the UPSOM Academy of Master Educators include Drs. DeFranco, McIvor, Tofovic, and Waxman.