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Department of Physiology

Human physiology is the study of the mechanical, physical, and biochemical processes that support the body’s function. Physiology studies the processes and mechanisms that allow an organism to survive, grow, and develop. Physiological processes are the ways in which organ systems, organs, tissues, cells, and biomolecules work together to accomplish the complex goal of sustaining life. Physiological mechanisms are the smaller physical and chemical events that make up a larger physiological process. Human physiology studies the functions of humans, their organs and cells, and how all of these functions combine to make life, growth, and development possible.

Traditionally, the academic discipline of physiology views the body as a collection of interacting systems, each with its own combination of functions and purposes. Each system contributes to the homeostasis of other systems and of the entire organism. No system works in isolation, and the well-being of the person depends upon the well-being of the interactions between body systems. The traditional divisions by system are somewhat arbitrary. Many organs participate in more than one system (such as the heart and kidney), and systems might be organized by function, by embryological origin, or by other categorizations. For instance, the neuroendocrine system is the complex interactions of the neurological and endocrinological systems. Together, the neuroendocrine system regulates many physiological processes, including those that maintain homeostasis. Furthermore, many aspects of physiology are not easily categorized by traditional definitions of organ systems because they are composed of interactions between organs in multiple organ systems.

The study of how physiology is altered in disease is pathophysiology. Pathophysiology focuses on how physiological processes fail to maintain normal function, resulting in the manifestation of disease symptoms.

The 8 subspecialties of Physiology are:

  1. Neurophysiology:
    The study of Functional properties of nerve cells
  2. Endocrinology:
    The study of hormones and how they control body functions
  3. Cardiovascular Physiology:
    The study of functions of the heart and blood vessels
  4. Immunology:
    The study of how the body defends itself against disease causing agents
  5. Respiratory Physiology:
    The study of functions of the air passageways and lungs
  6. Renal Physiology:
    The study of functions of the kidneys
  7. Exercise Physiology:
    The study of changes in cell and organ functions as a result of muscular activity
  8. Pathophysiology:
    The study of functional changes associated with disease and aging
Word from Head of the Department:

Welcome to the Department of Physiology at IMTU! From earliest times, people have sought to understand the nature of life. We instinctively want to know how our bodies work, how we are born, how we grow and develop, the nature of illness, what happens when we die. Physiology describes the nature of life. It provides the framework for studying and exploring the bases of life. Physiologists view life from the simplest to the most complex levels of organisation - from the subcellular, to the whole person. Physiologists make an important contribution to areas such as heart disease, reproduction and ageing and global population control.

Since medieval times till the mid of twentieth century medical science was synonymous with physiology when "mushrooming" of specialities, sub-specialities in medical science occurred and off-late in the last part of twentieth and in the beginning of twenty-first century; "off-shooting" of super-specialities from broad specialities made contemporary 'patient care' much sophisticated, precise and "segmented" at the expense of departure from the holistic approach of a 'family physician' in olden days.

The reductionist approach in understanding individual tissue and organ physiology is analogous to specialty medical care whereas a systems approach in physiology is akin to holistic medical care. With advances in technology the reductionist approach reached cellular, molecular and even atomic level. Systems and holistic approach also deals with patterning of activity - either simultaneously or sequentially or a complex interaction of sub-systems which is the hallmark of all living organisms.

Overtime, the continual study of human body during normalcy and through disease period has become so vast and enormous that it led to staggering and alignment of various medical science subjects in evolving a curriculum for medical education. This staggering goes in line with the reductionist approach which had segregated the medical science subjects into 'pre-clinical', 'para-clinical' and 'clinical' specialties.

Doctors who chose or are destined to become "medical teachers" were confined to the boundaries of a medical school / medical college especially those involved in basic medical sciences. Traditionally the 'pre-clinical' specialty of Physiology were considered to be foundation subjects in medicine but are now part of 'prevention-based science' which is one of the core element of primary healthcare.

Choosing teaching should not deter the physiologist form being a competent physician. A medical teacher is always required to be abreast with the current development in medical science and to apply it in teaching as well as in treating patients. Physiologist, in most situations, may not be the primary treating physician but can be a part of healthcare team who is responsible for overall management of patient. Research is part and parcel of the medical teaching profession. Physiologist must be keen in their observations and be a part of clinical establishment then only the bench research can be translated into bed-side medical practice.

Human Physiology at IMTU is developed on the premises that Physiology has an important role in the curative, promotive, preventive and rehabilitative healthcare through research and discovery of new scientific approaches to health care delivery. Physiology courses are integral part of MBBS, BSc MLT , BSc Nursing and MMed programmes.

Vision & Mission:
  • Vision : To become a centre of excellence in Human Physiology training and research and to be recognized as Tanzania’s foremost educational program in physiology, preparing our students to take their places as leaders in the medical and allied health professions, in academia and in biotechnology and biopharmaceutical industries.
  • Mission : To equip the students in the discipline of Human Physiology, by imparting knowledge and understanding of structure and function of human and biological systems. Thus, to foster the development of professional skills through well designed curriculum; based on experiments, training and research. This involves:
  1. Improving the quality of life of students and staff.
  2. Providing superior teaching and learning.
  3. Supporting career development opportunities.
  4. Strengthening socio-economic responsiveness.
  5. Enhance research outputs.
  6. Building research capacity by reaching out to other disciplines/sharing research facilities, enabling transformation.
  7. Fostering teamwork for successful applications of external funding.
  8. Supporting emerging-, established- and leading researchers.
  9. Strengthening IMTU’s international profile.
Core Values:

Our core values are to provide the resources and opportunities that foster excellence in research among faculty, fellows, and students, to provide a superior teaching resource to medical, allied health and graduate students, and provide exemplary service to the medical school and university. Our faculty continue to strive for innovative and novel approaches to research.