Independent Investigative Inquiry

​​​​​​​The purpose of the III portion of the curriculum is to engage students in activities that will foster the skills of life-long learning essential for practicing physicians in the 21st century. Students will gain experience generating questions related to the practice of medicine and exploring the various methods available to resolve such questions. The student is strongly urged to select a topic of particular interest and to investigate the subject independently, utilizing the advice of a faculty advisor and other resources in the WWAMI community. This is a unique opportunity for students to choose both the content and form of their learning and to pursue an interest that may not be included elsewhere in the curriculum.

There are five ways you can select to fulfill the III requirement.  ​Each offers the student a different type of learning experience and each has its own III process, expectations, and deadlines. For questions on any of these selectives, please contact UWSOM Curriculum Office at  More details about the III process can also be found on the III & MSRTP Catalyst site.  

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 research can be initiated by the student or by the advising faculty member, as long as the student has an independent role and makes an intellectual contribution to the project.  Students selecting this option can expect to learn the steps and logic involved in trying to resolve an empirical question through data collection and analysis. Students will learn how to conduct research in a way that conforms with human or animal use regulations.

If a student undertakes research as part of a funded program such as MSRTP (Medical Student Research Training Program), Developmental Disabilities, ITHS TL-1 (Multidisciplinary Predoctoral Clinical Research Training Program), MSTAR (Medical Student Training in Aging Research), or UW/ACS (UW/American Cancer Society) Summer Fellowships in Clinical Cancer Research), the study can used to fulfill the III requirement. 

For a list of potential Selective 1 funding sources contact the Curriculum Office,

Selective 1 Documents:

​Contact: UWSOM Curriculum Office,​.

Selective 2: Critical Review of the Literature

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. Particular attention is paid to the methods of the studies reviewed in addition to the results. Alternatively, students can use published literature and other sources to analyze an issue in medicine or to perform an historical investigation.

Students choosing Selective 2 learn how to use medical databases effectively. They learn how the population and methods employed in a study affect the interpretation of study results. In addition, they will learn how to synthesize information from a variety of sources in the form of an evidence table to draw a reasonable conclusion.

Looking for potential research topics?  Consider looking at issues related to health care disparities - project ideas and background information can be found here.

Selective 2 Documents:

Contact: UWSOM Curriculum Office,

Selective 3: Experience-Driven Inquiry

An experience-driven investigation of an issue will be developed by the student while participating in the Rural/Underserved Opportunities Program (R/UOP).  Experience-driven investigations can be done within any of these programs, although the number of students allowed to do their III within the program may be limited. 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. 

Contact: Toby Keys,, ​206.543.9425

Selective 4: Special Simulation Selective

This selective offers 1st year medical students an opportunity to participate as a member of the staff of the Institute for Simulation and Interprofessional Studies (ISIS). The student will have the opportunity to research and develop the content for one or more simulated patients. This patient, as well as others being concurrently developed, will be incorporated into a simulated hospital as the core of a computer based ‘continuity of care’ experience being developed for use with medical students.

Contact: Elizabeth Buttrick,, 206.598.2710


​Selective 5: Promoting Community Health in Developing Countries

An experience-driven investigation of an issue will be developed by the student while participating in the Global Health Immersion Program (GHIP, formerly IHOP). 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. Students spend a minimum of eight weeks in a developing country working to understand and help improve the local health communities. Students perform a community health assessment and will develop and implement a community health project.

Contact:  Daren Wade, MSW, ​