Curriculum Preview

Foundations Phase

Students remain at the regional site at which they begin their medical education for the entire 18 months of the Foundations Phase. The sole exception is Wyoming, whose students spend Term 3 (months 13 – 18) in Seattle until 2018, as facilities are being developed there for a larger numbers of students.

Key features of the Foundations Phase include:

  1. an initial 2-3 week orientation and immersion period in basic clinical skills that prepares students to work with patients;
  2. basic science instruction organized primarily in short blocks of related and integrated topics;
  3. topics offered longitudinally throughout the blocks that are integral to each block (pathology/histology, anatomy/imaging or Human Form and Function, and pharmacology); and preparation for patient care through longitudinal instruction in clinical skills and direct work with patients in both inpatient and outpatient settings. Close relationships are developed with faculty mentors and community physicians during this phase.
  • 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
  • Energetics and Homeostasis
    • Metabolism and nutrition, diabetes and obesity, gastrointestinal physiology, endocrinology
  • Blood and Cancer and Muskuloskeletal
    • Cancers, heme/lymph, palliative care, muskuloskeletal systems and rheumatologic diseases
  • 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, and anatomy/human form and function)
  • Clinical thread (foundational clinical experience and clinical skills in both classroom and patient care settings)
  • Themes (areas identified as important value-based topics to integrate into the blocks, clinical threads and clerkships: (diversity, health equity, ethics, professionalism, population health, and determinants of health.Students will also explore areas important to health systems including the form and function of health systems, systems improvements, lifelong learning, communication/interprofessional education, and population health).
The Ecology of Health and Medicine longitudinal course, part of the four-year curriculum develops a deep understanding of the ecology of medicine and the systems that constitute health care which are fundamental to becoming a successful physician. This course integrates and introduces UW School of Medicine thematic content in 7 dedicated weeks across the curriculum, with an emphasis on core concepts needed for clinical practice in the changing healthcare environment.

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 during 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 a research methods course (starting in summer 2018) and an Independent Investigative Inquiry (III) project in one of these 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 selects approximately 40 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: Systematic 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 42 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 Bozeman, 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 34 cities located throughout the WWAMI region.
Learn more at WRITE

Explore and Focus - Year 4

Nineteen months of required clerkships and clinical elective clerkships:

  • Advanced Patient Care Clerkship
  • Emergency Medicine
  • 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 course taught primarily in a small-group and workshop format. It is designed as a “continuing medical education” course, in which fourth-year students choose sessions to attend relating to the medical issues, evaluation, management, and procedures involved in their planned specialties.

Special Programs - Pathways

These optional, longitudinal programs that students may undertake throughout their medical school career prepare students in special areas of interest and involve intensive projects, classes, and patient care experiences.  Students who complete a pathway receive a certificate and recognition in their Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE) which is intended to provide residency program directors with an evaluation of a student's performance in medical school and designation of completion at graduation. The pathways available at this time are:
  • 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.
  • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ) Health Pathway : The goal of the LGBTQ Health Pathway is to provide a number of educational opportunities and experiences to medical students that will better prepare them to provide culturally responsive care for the LGBTQ population.

Community Underserved Scholars Program (CUSP)

Students admitted to this program spend all four years of medical school participating in clinical and community learning related to urban underserved care. CUSP is currently available in Seattle only. Learn more about CUSP

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.