Foundations Curriculum

Key components of the Foundations Phase:

Students in the foundations phase of the curriculum remain in Alaska for the entire 18 months.

1. Basic science instruction is primarily organized in short blocks of instruction with each block consisting of related, integrated topics.
2. A period with instruction in basic clinical skills ensuring that all students are ready to work with patients during the patient care portion of the curriculum.
3. Content in cross-cutting scientific areas, such as pathology/histology, human form and function, and pharmacology, is consolidated by integrating these topics into all of the blocks.
4. Classroom time and lectures are reduced, and more time is utilized for active learning.

Foundation Blocks

Fundamentals of Medical Science & Research (FMR)

Molecules and genes, cell physiology, biochemistry, genetic diseases, epidemiology, biostatistics

Foundations of Clinical Medicine (FCM)

Immersion (Term 1), Clinical Skills and Hospital Tutorials (Terms 1-3), Primary Care Practicum (PCP) (Term2) 

Infections and Immunity (I&I)

Immunology, microbiology, infectious diseases, inflammation and repair

Cancer, Hormones and Blood (CHB)

Oncology, endocrinology, hematology

Muscles, Joints, Bones and Skin (MJBS)

Musculoskeletal Function, joints, rheumatology, dermatology

Cardiovascular System (CVS)

Heart and blood vessels, cardiac mechanics and electrophysiology

Introduction to Medicine Health and Society

Introduces core concepts needed for clinical practice in the changing healthcare environment

Air, Fluids, and Salts (AFS)

Respiratory system, multisystem fluid balance, renal-urinary system

Head, Neck, and Gut (HNG)

Head and neck anatomy, gastrointestinal system 

Mind, Brain and Behavior (MBB)

Neuroscience and neurology, sensory systems, psychiatry

Lifecycle and Reproduction (LIFE)

Reproductive system, developmental stages of life


Threads are integrated throughout the curriculum and include pharmacology, pathology/histology, human form and function (dissection, prosection, ultrasound, embryology, imaging, and surface anatomy)


Life Long Learning, Health Equity, Diversity, Global, Population & Public Health, Ethics, Professionalism, Interprofessional Education (IPE) / Communication, Health Systems, Systems Improvement, and Social Determinants of Health


Preparation for USMLE step 1 examination

Non-clinical Electives

Non-clinical electives are courses relevant to medical education but do not involve direct patient care
Introduction to Team-Based Care in Rural and Underserved Settings: Provides opportunities for students in health professional programs to learn about inter-professional education, practice transformation, behavioral health integration, social determinants of health, cultural humility, and current emerging healthcare topics that concern rural and urban underserved communities. Addresses demographics, economics, community structure, culture, and professional/personal issues.
Cardiac Ultrasound: Instruction will be given in how to 1) acquire cardiac ultrasound images at three acoustic windows, 2) identify cardiac anatomy in standard views, and 3) recognize key pathologies: left and right ventricular dysfunction and dilatation and pericardial effusion. Following a course introduction, students will work self-paced, alone or in pairs, on a mannequin-based simulator.
Introduction to the Clinical Management of Transgender Patients: Covers the steps and protocols providers need to know to provide culturally proficient care for trans-identified patients.

III Scholarship

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

  1. Scholarship of Discovery is empirical research in which new discoveries are made through original investigation. A hypothesis is made regarding the relationship between variables and a study attempts to validate the hypothesis through observation. The study may take the form of a basic laboratory study, a survey, a secondary analysis of an existing data set, a chart review, a qualitative study, or a prospective clinical trial.
  2. Scholarship of Integration is work that synthesizes and gives meaning and perspective to isolated facts. This often takes the form a literature review. A literature review poses an unresolved question and attempts to answer that question by synthesizing evidence in published literature.
  3. Rural/Underserved Opportunity Program (RUOP). is a four-week, elective immersion experience in community medicine for students between their first and second years of medical school. During their four-week rotation, students live in rural or urban underserved communities throughout Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho (WWAMI ). They work side-by-side with local physicians providing health care to underserved populations.
  4. Global Health Immersion Program (GHIP) is an educational program and cultural immersion opportunity developed by the Global Health Resource Center and the UW Global Health Group. GHIP students spend eight weeks living and working in a developing country in order to gain first-hand insight into the challenges of global health.


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.

University of Washington School of Medicine, MD Program Curriculum Website