Curriculum Preview

​​Watch our UWSOM Curriculum Renewal Video from Dr. Michael Ryan, Associate Dean for Curriculum. ​

Foundations Phase

Students in the foundations phase of the curriculum remain at the regional site at which they begin their medical education for the entire 18 months (with the exception of Wyoming; Wyoming students return to Seattle for term two, months 13 – 18, at least until 2017).

Key features of the foundations phase include: 1) an initial period with instruction in basic clinical skills that ensures all students are ready to work with patients during the patient care portion of foundations; 2) basic science instruction that is primarily organized in short blocks of instruction with each block consisting of related, integrated topics; 3) integrated across all courses is less classroom time, limited lectures, and use of active learning content in cross-cutting scientific areas (such as pathology, anatomy, and pharmacology.)

  • Molecular and Cellular Basis of Disease
    • Cell physiology, genes and genetics
  • Invaders and Defenders
    • Immune system, microbial biology, infectious diseases, inflammation and repair, skin and connective tissue
  • Circulatory Systems
    • Cardiovascular system, respiratory system, renal-urinary system, multi-system fluid balance
  • Blood and Cancer
    • Cancers, heme/lymph, palliative care
  • Energetics and Homeostasis
    • Metabolism and nutrition, diabetes and obesity, gastrointestinal physiology, endocrinology
  • Mind, Brain and Behavior
    • Neuroscience and neurology, neurosurgery/trauma, sensory systems (ophthalmology/otolaryngology), psychiatry, anesthesia
  • Lifecycle
    • Lifecycle, reproductive system
  • Consolidation and Transition
    • Preparation for USMLE step 1, research/scholarship completion, transition to clerkship
Threads and themes are integrated throughout the new curriculum:
  • scientific threads (pharmacology, pathology, anatomy)
  • clinical threads (foundational clinical experience and clinical skills)
  • themes (areas identified as important to integrate into the blocks, clinical threads and clerkships: primary care; population health, health equity and global health; diversity, communication and interprofessional education; professionalism and ethics; lifelong learning, and scholarship

Foundations of Clinical Medicine (required)

Students begin their education with training in basic clinical skills during a combination immersion and orientation and have early exposure to patients in a longitudinal clinical experience focused on clinical skills, primary care, chronic care and continuity of care. Students spend one day each week out of the classroom working with physicians, faculty and other health professionals in patient care settings as well as completing special experiences (visiting labs, completing simulations, etc.). Students also receive clinical skills training from their college mentors.

Non Clinical Electives

Non Clinical Electives are courses relevant to medical education but not involving direct patient care. Non Clinical Electives are offered within foundations phase intersessions and during other non-required blocks of time.


  • Spanish for the Health Professional teaches vocabulary and pronunciation of words to conduct an interview/patient history and perform a physical examination.
  • Indian Health teaches how to use medical resources to solve clinical problems, and understand how Native Americans utilize traditional Indian medicine for their health care.
  • Alternative Approaches to Healing explores philosophies and practices of the major alternative approaches to healing accompanied by presentations by practitioners of chiropractic, naturopathic, homeopathic, and traditional Chinese medicine.
  • Wilderness Medicine​​ provides didactic and field experience in medical emergencies and situations unique to rural and wilderness settings, including, but not limited to, patient assessment, extrication, trauma, burns, water rescue, hypo/hyperthermia, toxins and high-altitude.

Summer Programs after Year One

During summer after their first year, students complete an Independent Investigative Inquiry (III) project in one of five areas.

Selective 1: Data-gathering/hypothesis-driven inquiry
This selective can take the form of a basic laboratory study, a survey, secondary analysis of an existing dataset, a chart review, a qualitative study or a prospective clinical trial. The Medical Student Research Training Program (MSRTP) is one type of Selective 1. MSRTP provides approximately 40 funded opportunities each year for students enrolled at the University of Washington School of Medicine to participate in a full-time, 10-week summer research project between their first and second years under the supervision of a faculty mentor.

Selective 2: Systemic literature review
A critical review of the literature poses an unresolved scientific question relevant to the practice of clinical medicine and attempts to answer that question using evidence published in medical literature.

Selective 3: Experience-driven inquiry – Rural/Underserved Opportunity Program (RUOP)
RUOP is a 4-week elective immersion that provides students an opportunity to work side-by-side with a physician preceptor, providing care to either rural or urban underserved populations. Students will closely observe health care in a community setting then develop a project based on those observations. The project could take several forms, including a community needs assessment, a plan for a community health intervention, or evaluation of a service delivery project.

Selective 4: Special simulation selective
The student will have the opportunity to research and develop the content for one or more simulated patients.

Selective 5: Promoting community health in developing countries: GHIP
This option is for students with a strong interest in global health and underserved communities and is particularly suited to students on the Global Health Pathway.

Patient Care Phase - Year 3

Required clerkships (can be taken anywhere in the WWAMI region) for a total of 52 weeks of clinical instruction.
  • Family Medicine
  • Internal Medicine
  • Obstetrics/Gynecology
  • Pediatrics
  • Psychiatry
  • Surgery
There are also optional clinical rotation tracks for completing all clerkships in one location (WWAMI Track program). Currently these are available in Idaho; Wyoming; Spokane, WA; Alaska; and Missoula and Billings, MT.

WRITE (WWAMI Rural Integrated Training Experience)

WRITE provides an 18 or 24-week integrated clerkship in the third year in one of 21 rural cities located throughout the WWAMI region.
Learn more at WRITE.

Explore and Focus - Year 4

Fifteen months of required clerkships:

  • Emergency Medicine                                        
  • Chronic Care
  • Neurology                                                       
  • Other clinical electives, and WWAMI special assignment electives, for example:
    Introduction to Detoxification and Rehabilitation Programs for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse An introduction to alcohol and drug detoxification/rehabilitation with supervised clinical experiences in a variety of addiction treatment programs.

    Child Psychiatry An introduction to child and adolescent psychiatry. At the end of the clerkship, the student will be able to assess psychiatric disorders in children and adolescents and be familiar with a bio-psychosocial approach to treatment.


Capstone is a required, 4-day course taught primarily in a small group and workshop format. It is designed as a “Continuing Medical Education” course, in which fourth-year students (graduating in May of the current year) choose sessions to attend relating to the medical issues, evaluation, management, and procedures involved in their planned specialties.

Special Programs - Pathways

  • Global Health Pathway: The Global Health Pathway provides medical students with the information and experiences necessary to practice in underserved communities both in the United States and abroad.
  • Hispanic Health Pathway: Prepares both Hispanic and non-Hispanic medical students to provide culturally responsive care to Hispanic communities.
  • Indian Health Pathway: Includes coursework on issues affecting this culture and clerkships in tribal setting.
  • Underserved Pathway: Prepares medical students for work in underserved communities.

The Colleges

The Colleges program provides a four-year integrated approach to acquiring the fundamental clinical skills of physical exam and diagnosis, clinical reasoning and interpretation, communication with patients and colleagues, professionalism, and ethics. Students are assigned to a college upon acceptance to UWSOM. Each college has a dedicated group of mentors, one of whom serves as the Head of the College. Each student has a consistent faculty mentor throughout his or her medical school years. College mentors play a significant role in teaching students basic clinical skills as well as acting as their mentor. In addition to clinical skills and mentoring, there may be College-based activities that allow students in a given college to interact as part of a larger learning community. An educational learning portfolio is created and serves as a repository for written work, evaluations, and grades and allows college mentors to track student progress.