ISP Handbook

The Focused Clinical Multidisciplinary ISP (FCM-ISP)


The Focused Clinical Multidisciplinary ISP (FCM-ISP) is a focused, multidisciplinary experience in a clinical setting that shares the major objectives of traditional Independent Study Projects (ISP). Similar to the traditional ISP, the FCM-ISP adds to the elective curriculum at the UCSD School of Medicine in the following ways:

  • The FCM-ISP allows the student to exercise independence in a significant part of his or her education. The FCM-ISP fosters the active, self-directed thought and problem solving ability necessary for the practice of modern medicine, thus complementing the core and elective courses.
  • The FCM-ISP emphasizes both process and outcome. Medical education is a lifelong process; the FCM-ISP provides opportunities for the development of self-directed learning habits that will benefit the student in his or her career as a physician.
  • The FCM-ISP provides the opportunity to design a course of study that will allow the students to pursue their own interests in a clinically oriented project that satisfies the same basic educational goals of a traditional ISP. Unlike a traditional ISP, this will not be a hypothesis driven project or experiment. Similar to the traditional ISP, it provides an experience not available in the core curriculum.
  • Requiring the use of methods, resources, and/or experiences found in two or more medical disciplines, the FCM-ISP provides the student with an opportunity to approach a specific topic in depth, in contrast to the core curriculum, which emphasizes learning in breadth.
  • Because the FCM-ISP is a period of concentrated study, it requires the student to develop rapport and/or close relationships with faculty members. The FCM-ISP provides the opportunity for a student to work closely with the three faculty members he/she chooses to serve on the ISP Committee.


The FCM-ISP must be a multidisciplinary clinical experience drawn from several medical disciplines, focused on a particular topic and conceived, designed, and organized by the student. The completion of a FCM-ISP (or a traditional ISP) is a requirement for graduation. Because of its nature, the FCM-ISP can only be completed in the fourth year.

The FCM-ISP requires the student to engage in activities around a particular clinical topic and apply his or her knowledge in the observation and treatment of patients in a clinical setting. The FCM-ISP must be in a specific area in clinical medicine and involve a multidisciplinary experience. For example, a FCM-ISP could be a clinical focus on Alzheimer's disease that involves the disciplines of neurology, psychiatry, nursing, and social work. Patient contact is a crucial element. Students participating in the FCM-ISP are not required to create new information; their goal is synthesis and refinement of knowledge and experiences resulting in enhanced expertise. Once approved, the FCM-ISP is designed to be a full time experience for two months.


Common and Different Aspects of the FCM-ISP and Traditional ISP


Common Attributes:

  • Required for graduation
  • Should be a scholarly activity, which meets the major educational objectives of the ISP
  • Require a written proposal that must be approved by the Electives Committee
  • Three faculty members on the committee

Different Attributes:

  • FCM-ISP Committee must be multidisciplinary, including two or more medical disciplines.
  • FCM-ISP activities are clinically focused
  • FCM-ISP will be completed in the fourth year only
  • The FCM-ISP does not require hypothesis driven research
  • The goal of most traditional ISPs is the creation of new knowledge. The goal of the FCM-ISP is the acquisition of special expertise in a focused area, through an experience not provided by the traditional curriculum.

Components of the FCM-ISP Proposal

Every student must submit an ISP proposal to the Electives Committee for approval in which the student selects the topic for the FCM-ISP and recruits the faculty chair and members of his/her ISP committee.  The proposal must follow the format presented below.


The necessary forms are available using the links below, in the "Forms" section of this Handbook, and in the UGME Office.  They include:

  1. Form A - The ISP Chair Declaration.  This form indicates which faculty member has agreed to chair the ISP committee.  This form is due in the UGME Office by March 1 of the third year.
  2. Form B - The ISP Chair's Approval Statement. The chair of the ISP committee must complete an Approval Statement as part of the ISP proposal due on or before May 1 of the third year.  The Chair Approval Statement must include:
    • Student's specific role.  The ISP chair should provide a statement describing the role of the student in the project.
    • Role of each committee member.  The ISP chair should identify what involvement each committee member will have from the beginning of the project until its completion.
    • How the student's work will be evaluated.  The ISP chair should specify the criteria that will be used to evaluate satisfactory completion of the student's work and achievement of goals.  These criteria should follow directly from the defined goals of the project, in addition to addressing the overall goals of the ISP as enumerated in this Handbook.  Regular meetings between students and faculty are strongly encouraged, and written progress reports from the student may be used to ensure that the project is on track.
    • Feasibility.  The ISP chair should determine whether the project can be completed within the time allotted.  This determination is critical to ensure a student's success.  Projects that depend on data or equipment that are unavailable at the time of the proposal often result in difficulties and wasted time.  It is advisable to be sure all necessary components are available before the beginning of the project. 
  3. Form C - Independent Study Project Proposal Form.  All committee members are expected to sign the student's proposal form, indicating their willingness to serve and their review of the proposal.  This form is due in the UGME Office on or before May 1 of the third year.
  4. Form D - Human / Animal Subjects Investigation Form.  If the ISP involves animal subjects, the project must be approved through the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee before it can be started.  If the ISP involves human subjects in ANY way, it must be approved through the Human Research Protections Program (HRPP) before it can be started.  Even such projects as reviews of medical records or secondary analyses of existing data (even without seeing or talking to the patients) must be approved through the HRPP.  Students should not hesitate to contact the HRPP directly if they have any questions. 

It is preferable to get the appropriate human and animal subjects' approval before the proposal is submitted to the Electives Committee. However, while it is always necessary to have such ISPs approved by the appropriate approval office before they are started, proposals may be submitted to the Electives Committee while approval is pending.  In order to comply with Federal, State, and UCSD laws, regulations, and policies, all student work involving human or animal subjects (performed at the University or other locations) MUST BE registered and approved with the appropriate office.  The actual applications for human or animal subjects approval may be obtained at the websites below.


Questions should be addressed to either:


UCSD Human Research Protections Program (


UCSD Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (


Generating the Written FCM-ISP Proposal

The following proposal instructions are intended to provide a guideline for preparing your written proposal for an FCM-ISP.  Alternate and/or additional information may be included as necessary to clearly communicate your proposed project.

  1. Title.  Include a title indicating the subject of clinical study.
    (Example: Transplantation)
  2. Description.  Include a brief summary (approximately 250 words) of the project.  The description should include the multidisciplinary areas of the project.  Please note that while non-medical disciplines may be relevant and may be included (ex. social work, psychology), the main focus should be on medical disciplines.
  3. Definition.  Clearly define the scope of the project.  Describe the goals and objectives of the study.  This should be an experience designed by you.  It should not be some thing that could be accomplished through a traditional 4th year rotation experience.
  4. Plan and Methods.  Provide a listing of each location where multidisciplinary areas are to be explored and the time to be spent at each.  Describe the activity involved in each area.  Include names of key contacts at each location/project area.  Indicate the type of knowledge and the level of expertise to be gained in each multidisciplinary area of the project.
    (Example: UCSD Medical Center subinternship with Marquis Hart, M.D., 3 weeks full time study)
  5. Synthesis.  Provide a preliminary description of how the multidisciplinary areas are to be synthesized toward the overall goal of the project.  This description may be general as the synthesis aspect will be discovered during the project.
  6. Summary.  Describe the format in which the components of the project will be summarized when the project is complete.

  7. Evaluation. Specify the criteria to be used in judging the satisfactory completion of the goals and objectives.  How will the evaluation take place (e.g. formal presentation to a select committee, oral examination, or written summary.)?  How will the success of the project be judged?  How were the goals and objectives accomplished?  These criteria should follow directly from the defining goals of the project.

    Upon completion of the FCM-ISP, the student will be evaluated by the FCM-ISP committee chair and members using the method described in the original proposal, as approved by the Electives Committee. The document, presentation, or final project used as the medium for evaluation must include the following:

    • List of goals/objectives of the project
    • The rationale for the project
    • A description of the project
    • A synthesis of the multidisciplinary aspects of the project
    • A summary of how the experience met the project's stated objectives.
    • Faculty documentation that the student spent the obligated time carrying out the proposed FCM-ISP activities
    The final evaluation will be based on the student's ability to meet the objectives of the FCM-ISP as listed above.

NOTE: The Electives Committee assists in developing a proposal that fulfills the requirements of a valid Independent Study Project with regard to academic content and the specific role of the student in the project. Please see the Project Resources section for Electives Committee contact information.


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