MD Program

Integrating the SDGs in a Unique Structured MD Program

The United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent a global initiative to address pressing challenges and achieve a sustainable future by the end of the decade. In alignment with these goals, the School of Medicine recognizes the pivotal role it plays in contributing to a healthier and more equitable world.

However, the challenge in mapping the SDGs within the MD program arises from its unique structure, which is organized into modules rather than traditional courses. In a conventional curriculum, specific courses may align with distinct topics or objectives, allowing for a more straightforward integration of SDGs. However, the modular framework of the MD program means that various disciplines, including anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, pathology, social sciences, behavioral sciences, population health, nutrition, medical ethics, clinical skills, and clinical sciences, are interlaced throughout the learning journey.

This interdisciplinary nature makes it challenging to assign specific SDGs to isolated disciplines or modules, as the content of each discipline often spans multiple modules. The intricate connections between different disciplines and the fluidity of topics within modules make it difficult to apply a direct, one-to-one mapping of SDGs to each module. The challenge lies in ensuring that the principles of sustainable development are adequately addressed across the entire curriculum, considering the integrative and interconnected nature of medical education.

To overcome this challenge, a meticulous mapping process was undertaken, breaking down the curriculum to modules (in Med I and Med II) and clerkships (Med III and Med IV) and further by disciplines and then further delineating certain topics or curricular activities within each module. This approach allows for a more nuanced evaluation of the extent to which SDGs are covered in various aspects of the MD program, acknowledging the complexity introduced by the modular structure. Moreover, we developed an interactive “SDG mapping tool” that measures the extent to which every SDG is covered in every discipline and every module/clerkship. Subsequently a score that ranges from 0 to 5 is entered based on the following definition:

Below is a summary of the mapping, expressing the number of Modules + the number of Clerkships in the 4-year MD program, addressing each SDG and the overall average of the extent to which each SDG is covered on a scale from 0 to 5. There are 9 modules across Med I and Med II and 17 clerkships throughout Med III and Med IV.

All SDGs.pngFigure: Number of modules (Med I and Med II) + number of clerkships (Med III and Med IV) and the average extent over 5 to which they relate to each of the United Nations 17 SDGs.

This page was derived from the SDG Curriculum Toolkit by John Barimo, Catherine O’Mahony, Gerard Mullally, John O’Halloran, Edmond Byrne, Darren Reidy, Maria Kirrane  licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License from