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HMX Pro Pharmacology
Pharmacology – Essentials

Gain essential pharmacology knowledge to prepare for the future of health care.

HMX Pro Pharmacology – Essentials covers the basic concepts required to understand the field of pharmacology today, with an emphasis on the principles that describe what the body does to a drug and in turn what a drug does to the body.

This foundational course offers a unique way for professionals to learn how these key pharmacology concepts are ultimately used in the treatment and prevention of disease, and to prepare for exploring more advanced topics like drug delivery.

Course Topics

Overview of Pharmacology

  • Introduction to Pharmacology
  • The Promise of Pharmacology in Human Health and Disease

Pharmacology and Therapeutics

  • Drug Modalities
  • Therapeutic Approaches
  • Small Molecule Drugs
  • Biologics
  • The Cardiovascular System
  • Routes of Administration
  • Improving Drug Delivery
  • Application: Insulin Delivery


  • Overview of Pharmacokinetics
  • Absorption and Bioavailability
  • Distribution
  • Volume of Distribution
  • Drug Metabolism
  • Clearance
  • Drug Elimination
  • Interactive: Visualizing Volume of Distribution
  • Clinical Linkage: Anesthesia in the Operating Room


  • Drug Targets and Action
  • Drug Action at Receptors
  • Pharmacodynamic Representations
  • Drug-Receptor Binding
  • Dose-Response Curves
  • Drug Responses
  • Inhibitors
  • Application: Opioid Potency


  • The Future of Pharmacology

Download the Pharmacology – Essentials course outline

Course Instructors

Kate McDonnell-Dowling, HMX Pharmacology Course Lead

Kate McDonnell-Dowling, PhD

Lecturer in Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School
Associate Director of Curriculum, HMX

James P. Rathmell, Harvard Medical School

James P. Rathmell, MD

Leroy D. Vandam Professor of Anesthesia, Harvard Medical School
Chair of the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

David E. Golan, Harvard Medical School

David E. Golan, MD, PhD

Professor of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School
Dean for Research Operations and Global Programs, Harvard Medical School
George R. Minot Professor of Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

More Information

Frequently asked questions

Who should take this course?

This course is designed for professionals in health care, life sciences, and related industries who want to have a better understanding of key pharmacology concepts for their work.

Note: We also offer HMX Fundamentals Pharmacology for those seeking a broader overview of the field; we recommend reviewing topic outlines and choosing the most appropriate course for your needs. It is not recommended to take both courses as there is some overlap in the topics covered.

What do participants need to know to succeed in this course?

We recommend basic knowledge of chemistry, biology, and physics – no advanced knowledge is required.

What is the time commitment?

Most people can expect to spend around 10–20 hours total, but this depends on your baseline knowledge, how carefully you take notes, and how seriously you take the assessments. New course material is released periodically, and remains available until the course period ends, so participants can work at their own pace. There is a final exam at the end of each course that can be taken any time during the final exam period.

Can participants earn certificates from Harvard Medical School?

There are two certification levels, based on participant scores:

  • Certificate of Achievement
  • Certificate of Completion