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Mini Medical School: Hot Topics in Medical Science

Learn about cutting-edge medical science topics, separate fact from fiction, and empower yourself to look after your own health.

1,468 enrolled on this course

Scene from a surgical procedure with three medical professionals in full surgical garb and a patient undergoing a scan.

Mini Medical School: Hot Topics in Medical Science

1,468 enrolled on this course

  • 4 weeks

  • 3 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Advanced level

Find out more about how to join this course

Find out more about real-world developments in medical science

Explore the latest research on important medical issues in this dynamic four-week course. By the end, you’ll be able to separate fact from fiction and get all the answers you need when you visit a medical practice.

Gain insight into health science

The course follows Introduction to Medical Science, which explains the basics of modern medicine. In this course, those building blocks are used as foundational knowledge as you learn about real-world developments.

This translational research (theory-to-practice) approach is applied to immunology, infectious diseases, neuroscience, and cancer. You’ll get more comfortable with the way health science diagnoses prevents and treats illnesses, making connections between modern medicine theory and application.

Be empowered by modern medicine

With anti-science disinformation spreading more widely all the time, it has become crucial to understand health science. When you visit a medical practice, you need to be able to follow explanations and ask questions to ensure you understand what you’re being told.

That’s exactly what you’ll learn on this course, allowing you to be your own healthcare advocate. During this time of conflicting information on COVID-19, a clear grasp of translational research is arguably more important than ever.

Learn from the best in medical science

On this course, you’ll be taught by Dr JJ Cohen, lead educator and immunologist and founder of the Mini Medical School himself. Dr Cohen has won multiple awards and holds honorary degrees from the Universities of Sherbrooke and McGill.

As well as benefiting from Dr Cohen’s unique approach, you’ll enjoy exceptional course production from Helen MacFarlane. They have collaborated for years, and their experience ensures excellent learning experiences.


  • Week 1


    • Welcome to Mini Medical School: Hot Topics in Medicine

      intro to course 2

    • Introduction & Innate Immunity

      Dr. Jenner was the first to use a cross-reacting vaccine to prevent a deadly illness, which he described in a paper published in 1796 that literally changed the world, and set the stage for the study of the immune response.

    • Inflammation

      Is inflammation good, bad or both?

    • Antibodies

      Antibodies: the most variable molecules in the universe!

    • T cells

      T is for thymus

    • Immunization

      How does immunization work with the immune system?

    • Immunopathology

      What happens when the immune system doesn't work

    • Old Friends

      Does our immune system have collaborators?

    • Transplantation

      How does transplantation work?

    • End of Week 1

      Reflection on the content learned in week 1 and a peak into week 2!

  • Week 2

    Infectious Disease

    • Infectious disease introduction

      In the 1950's people were beginning to say that the war on infectious disease was over thanks to antibiotics, but then reality set in: new diseases began to appear with increasing frequency. Antibiotic resistance became a problem.

    • Bacterial Disease

      We will look at fighting bacteria with antibiotics and what can happen when they aren't used well.

    • Antibiotics and the Microbiome

      Antibiotics were a brilliant discovery in medicine. And we should be developing new ones, but the economics of doing that are not so favorable. And if we spread them around too much, we will select for bacteria that are resistant.

    • Malaria

      Often in western countries we don't think about diseases that are uncommon here. But we need to think about this one, because it is a cruel killer of children in poorer countries and we need to make greater efforts to control it.

    • Tuberculosis

      You will be astonished to learn how many of the world's people are infected with this tough, difficult to treat bacterium. It helps us understand the importance of the immune response, in this case primarily the Th1 helper T cell.

    • Herpes and its relatives

      The herpes virus family are not our friends. Some are cowards; they hide from the immune system in various cells, and come out again when our systems are stressed. At least two of them cause forms of cancer.

    • HIV/AIDS

      An Epidemic of Infectious Immunodeficiency

    • Emerging infectious diseases

      What infectious diseases are on the horizon? We've allowed several dreadful viruses to spread from wild animals to domestic ones, and people.

    • Influenza

      What do we know about the flu?

    • COVID-19

      A deep dive into COVID-19, it's symptoms, diagnosis, and prevention protocols

    • End of Week 2

      Reflection on the content learned in week 2 and a glimpse of what's ahead in week 3!

  • Week 3


    • Memory

      The hippocampus is involved in developing new memories, and is one of very few places in the brain where new cells are made in adults. We have several different categories of memory which are introduced here.

    • Learning

      "Neurons that fire together, wire together." That's the mantra for this Unit. We also like: The more we know, the more we can learn. What are the characteristics of the "life long learner"?

    • Depression

      We begin to look at several serious and highly prevalent mood and thought disorders. Depression would seem to be something that's "just a really bad mood," but it is associated with significant changes in brain structure.

    • Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia

      Like other disorders we've discussed, there are genetic and environmental determinants of bipolar disorders and schizophrenia. Bipolar is a mood disorder, and schizophrenia is mainly a thought disorder.

    • Autism spectrum disorder

      A spectrum disorder usually means that there are people with a very debilitating disease, and others with much milder symptoms who can, with help, function well in society.

    • Autism and brain development

      This Unit addresses the way the brain develops in childhood, and suggests ways in which the fine tuning can be different in autism spectrum disorder.

    • Dementia—Alzheimer

      The emotional and financial costs of caring for people with Alzheimer disease (AD) are staggering. As people live longer, the prevalence rises, and perhaps a third of all of us will develop AD if we live long enough.

    • Stroke

      We look at what it is, how it happens (there are two kinds of stroke) and what we can do to treat it.

    • End of Week 3

      Reflection on the content learned in week 3 and a glimpse of what's ahead in week 4!

  • Week 4

    Cancer Biology

    • What is Cancer?

      Cancer can have different definitions depending on the level that is being studied: the entire tumor, the cells that it's made of, the chromosomes in those cells, and the genes within those chromosomes.

    • Diagnosis

      Cancer is often detected early because of a change in some part of the body, or other symptom like weight loss. We list some things to look for, and then survey the ways available to medical teams to make a diagnosis.

    • Statistics

      Cancer statistics are revealing about how cancer works. It's one of the top causes of death in the richer countries, but it seems to be largely a disease of development.

    • Mutations

      Cells aren't evil; they are just obeying Darwin's "survival of the fittest" observation—ones that are mutated to grow faster, spread more, and metastasize, will be selected to do so, pretty much like weeds.

    • Cancer Grades and Stages

      Grading and staging also help the team decide on the best strategy for treatment. And just as important, it allows us to compare treatments over time.

    • Treatment 1

      The mainstays of cancer treatment are still the three oldest strategies: surgery, chemotherapy (drugs), and radiation. They all have strengths and weaknesses.

    • Treatment 2

      This Unit starts with the present and introduces the future. Targeted or rational therapy starts with the molecular identification of a tumor's mutations and designs drugs to counter the tumor-specific mechanism.

    • Cancer Prevention

      Here it is: we've seen quite a lot of evidence that cancer is in part a lifestyle disease. That means we can change our lifestyles and hope to change our chances of getting cancer.

    • End of Week 4

      You have finished the course! CONGRATS! Here is a reflection on this week and the overall course.

When would you like to start?

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Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Discuss how to make well-informed decisions about illness, wellness, and life-style choices.
  • Identify key clinical features and management strategies of common diseases discussed in the course.
  • Reflect on the information gained in this course and how it will impact your interaction with medical professionals in the future.
  • Summarize key concepts surrounding immunology, infectious disease, neuroscience, and cancer biology.
  • Explain how the immune system deals with damage or disease-causing microbes.
  • Identify the general role of mass and T cells in the immune system and their function.
  • Discuss the importance of vaccines and immunity in protecting against harmful microbes.
  • Describe diseases in which the immune system fails to function in the correct manner.
  • Identify clinical features of infections by common pathogens.
  • Summarize ways to prevent and treat infection by common pathogens.
  • Reflect on the complexity and history of antibiotic resistance.
  • Explain the basic structure and function of the brain.
  • Summarize the clinical features and management strategies for common diseases that impact brain development or function including Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, mood disorders, and autism.
  • Describe different treatment options for cancer.
  • Summarize lifestyle changes that can lower your risk for cancer.
  • Investigate resources available to learn more about cancer and clinical trials.
  • Classify brain structures by function.

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone who has specific health concerns, wants to communicate better with medical practitioners, or is considering a career in health care.

It will be most beneficial if you have already taken the Introduction to Medical Science course.

Who will you learn with?

Who developed the course?

University of Colorado

The University of Colorado is a recognized leader in higher education on the national and global stage. We collaborate to meet the diverse needs of our students and communities. We promote innovation, encourage discovery and support the extension of knowledge in ways unique to the state of Colorado and beyond.

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Ways to learn

Choose the best way to learn for you!

Buy this course

$134/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Subscribe & save

$349.99 for one year

Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 11 Aug 2024

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

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  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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