Technical Standards

The awarding of the MD degree from Tufts University School of Medicine attests that a student possesses a broad base of knowledge and skills requisite for the practice of medicine. It is essential that all graduates meet a standard level of expected competence across all necessary domains defined in the curriculum, with or without reasonable accommodations. The primary objective of a medical education at TUSM is to prepare students to practice as generalist physicians and as such be capable of pursuing post-graduate training in any current specialty of medicine. Thus, every student must complete all aspects of the required curriculum as determined by the faculty. The Tufts MD graduate must have the ability to function in a variety of clinical situations, to communicate effectively with patients and members of the health care team in unpredictable and potentially chaotic circumstances and to render a wide spectrum of patient care in a respectful, empathic and culturally sensitive manner, being aware of inherent biases. The acquisition of scientific knowledge must be accompanied by the demonstration of basic intellectual, ethical, and professional attitudes and behaviors, and moral principles that are essential for a responsible physician to possess.

Tufts recognizes the value that a diverse group of learners brings to our medical school program and to the practice of medicine. We are committed to supporting students and providing reasonable accommodations to help them meet the objectives of the School of Medicine throughout the pre-clerkship and clerkship phases of the curriculum. All students are expected to demonstrate proficiency, with reasonable accommodations if needed, in all degree requirements. Reasonable accommodations enable students with disabilities to meet TUSM’s requirements, but they do not alter the essential clinical skills, knowledge, behaviors or abilities outlined below. Reasonable accommodations do not eliminate essential curricular elements or requirements that have been established by the faculty as part of the medical school curriculum. Students who wish to apply for accommodations should contact the Office of Students Affairs (and speak to our Director of Academic Support) or the OEO at Tufts University.  

The following five skills and abilities are considered essential for fulfillment of the MD degree and have been formally adopted by the faculty of Tufts University School of Medicine. A candidate for the MD degree must have abilities and skills in the areas of observation, communication, sensory and motor coordination and function, intellectual-conceptual, integrative, and quantitative abilities; and behavioral and social attributes as described below.


Students must be able to observe and fully participate in all aspects of the pre-clerkship foundational science curriculum. They must independently be able to accurately observe a patient and the surrounding environment, noting nonverbal, as well as verbal signals. Observation necessitates the functional use of vision and somatic sensation, with or without accommodation.


Students must be able to independently communicate effectively and sensitively with patients and their families, as well as with all members of the health care team. Effective communication requires a student to accurately and efficiently gather and assimilate information from patients, team members and trusted resources; to accurately interpret that information and to successfully relay and provide information to patients as well as to members of the healthcare team. Students must communicate effectively and efficiently with appropriate boundaries. They must be able to accurately elicit, comprehend, interpret, transmit and record information regarding all features of a patient’s physical and emotional status. They must possess reading skills at a level sufficient to accomplish, in a timely manner, all administrative requirements (including documentation in the electronic healthcare record). As members of the health care team, students must be able to provide information in urgent and semi-urgent situations, and respond immediately and appropriately to verbal communication, even in unpredictable and stressful clinical settings.

Sensory and Motor Coordination and Function

Students must possess motor and sensory capacity to perform all activities necessary for the completion of the curriculum, as well as for the provision of routine and emergent patient care (students must have the ability to recognize a patient emergency and take appropriate immediate action). A student should have the ability to perform a complete physical examination with sufficient motor function to elicit information from patients by palpation, auscultation (or its functional equivalent), percussion and other diagnostic maneuvers. Such actions require coordination of gross and fine movements, equilibrium, strength and endurance, and functional use of the senses, with or without accommodation. Students may be called upon to perform such actions rapidly and under challenging circumstances.

Intellectual-Conceptual, Integrative and Quantitative Abilities

Students must demonstrate sufficient ability in measurement, calculation, reasoning, analysis, and synthesis. Problem solving, a critical skill demanded of physicians, requires all of these intellectual abilities. Students must be able independently to access and interpret medical histories or records, identify significant findings from history, physical examination, and laboratory data; provide a reasoned explanation for likely diagnoses, and prescribed medications and therapy, and recall and retain information in an efficient and timely manner. The ability to incorporate new information from peers, teachers, and the medical literature in formulating diagnoses and plans is essential. Good judgment in patient assessment, diagnostic and therapeutic planning is crucial; students must be able to identify and communicate their knowledge to others when appropriate.

Behavioral and Social Attributes

Students must have the capacity to develop empathic, respectful, and effective relationships with peers, patients and all members of the health care team. They must be able to use their intellectual capacity to exercise sound judgment and to complete all academic and clinical responsibilities in a timely and professional manner, even under stressful circumstances. They must be able to demonstrate resilience and adapt to changing environments and to learn in the face of the uncertainties inherent in the practice of medicine. Compassion, integrity, high ethical standards, cultural sensitivity, as well as strong interpersonal skills and motivation are vital to the successful completion of the M.D. program.  Students must be able to identify their own needs for support and care, and proactively access available resources so that they have the mental and emotional health required for full utilization of their intellectual capacities.

These technical standards have been updated and approved by the TUSM Curriculum Committee and Student Ethics and Promotions Committee in March of 2021. It is a breach of professional conduct for a provisionally accepted candidate or a TUSM student to knowingly misrepresent abilities or provide false information.