University of Pittsburgh


Organ System Pathophysiology

Digestion & Nutrition

November 13, 2017-December 13, 2017
23 half days

Course Director
Georgia K. Duker, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Cell Biology and Physiology

Course Director
Kenneth W. Lee, MD
Associate Professor
Department of Surgery



Course Description

This course covers the normal function and pathophysiology of the several organs that comprise the gastrointestinal tract. Part one covers hollow organs, part two covers solid organs.

The goals of the course are:

  1. to learn the five organs that make up the gastrointestinal tract and their enervation, vascular supply and sequence of  activation during normal digestion.
  2. to understand the combination of physical and chemical events necessary for normal digestion and the physiologic regulation that coordinates these processes.
  3. to understand the structure and function of the enteric nervous system and the cellular mechanisms targeted by pharmacologic agents that act in this system.
  4. to understand the interplay between neural and hormonal regulation of digestion.
  5. to understand the role of the liver, gall bladder and pancreas in metabolic homeostasis.
  6. to learn the characteristics of common diseases of the gastrointestinal system, their clinical presentation, diagnostic methods, pathology, etiology and treatment.
  7. to understand the role of normal GI function in nutrition and some specific challenges posed by GI disease states.

A multidisciplinary team of 45 faculty, including basic scientists, clinical gastroenterologists, pediatric gastroenterologists, histologists, and pathologists, conduct the learning sessions in this course. Faculty are from 6 departments: Cell Biology and Physiology; Medicine (Divisions of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition; and Clinical Pharmacology); Microbiology and Molecular Genetics; Pediatrics; Pharmacology; and Pharmacy and Therapeutics.

Educational Methods


Lectures Histology labs Small group workshops Review sessions
Online Problem-Based Learning sessions Online workshops for independent or group learning Online quizzes for self-study Online discussion of online and live learning



Evaluation for this course is based on two multiple-choice examinations (80%) and on PBL attendance and participation (20%).

Grading: The weighting of the course grade within a block grade is based on the length of the course. Grading for the block is Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory.

Faculty Note

Course Director Georgia Duker, PhD, is a recipient of the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award, the Kenneth E. Schuit Master Educator Award, multiple Excellence in Education Awards for Problem-based Learning Facilitator and for Small Group Facilitator, and the Pre-Clinical Golden Apple Award. Patricia Eagon, PhD, and Bruce McClane, PhD, are recipients of the Kenneth E. Schuit Award Master Educator Award. In addition, Dr. Duker; Donald DeFranco, PhD; and James McGee, MD, are members of the UPSOM Academy of Master Educators.