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Highlights of the Curriculum

Equipping Washington medical students for the rapidly evolving health care environment

Through classroom and clinical experiences, the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine will prepare you to be a leader in patient care, in your health care system, and in your community.

Faculty are graduates of some of the most highly regarded medical education programs in the nation. You will learn from practicing clinicians and active research scientists.

“A significant proportion of your medical education can and will be personalized. You will have a group of faculty who’ve got your back. You are going to have a community behind you that is enthusiastic about your future as a doctor.”
—Dawn DeWitt, MD, MSC, MACP, FRACP, Associate Dean of Clinical Education, Spokane Campus

Personalized education

When you enter the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, faculty will assess your skills and help you tailor your learning experience. Your mentor will help you personalize your curriculum as you progress toward the MD degree.  In order to graduate with an MD, you will need to achieve a specific set of competencies. Faculty will help you master those skills and topics. If you have already mastered specific competencies, faculty will encourage you to invest your time and attention in other learning opportunities available through the college.

Preparation for the challenges of 21st century health care

Health care delivery is changing rapidly. Tomorrow’s physicians need the agility to succeed in the face of shifting approaches to practice, emerging needs of communities, and ever-advancing technologies. The Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine curriculum anticipates the evolution of health care. It trains doctors to meet new challenges.

Extensive clinical experience

Early and frequent interaction with patients across the full spectrum of health care settings is fundamental to the curriculum. It shapes your understanding of the practice of medicine. It prepares you to become an insightful and compassionate physician.

First-year clinical experience: The Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine recognizes the value of introducing clinical experiences to medical students early in their first year. Therefore, all students will spend a week at their clinical campus soon after beginning their medical school journey, working side-by-side with experienced physician preceptors as they deliver care to their patients. This early exposure allows you to hone interpersonal, communication, and counseling skills with patients, and be able to put the foundational sciences curriculum into a clinical context. Two additional weeks will occur later that year. These clinical experiences also allow you to become familiar with your clinical campus community.

Your classroom curriculum will prepare you further for your clinical experiences with a heavy emphasis on small group, case-based learning, a facet of education current students really enjoy.

Interprofessional learning: As a physician, you’re one key part of a large health care system. To be most effective, you need a working knowledge of what other health professionals do. The Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine provides you opportunities to interact with diverse members of a health care team. You will understand their roles and the value of their contributions.

Preceptorships: In your first year, you will also have the opportunity to work alongside clinical preceptors in the greater Spokane community on a regular basis, as well as from preceptors at your designated clinical campus. During that time, you will have the chance to forge professional relationships with clinicians and their patients. You will begin to understand the breadth and depth of concerns that patients present to their doctors. At the same time, you will explore different career disciplines by observing and interacting with your supervising clinicians.

Scholarly project: The Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine believes that future physicians will face a rapidly evolving health care environment and must be capable of understanding scientific evidence. The ideal means of acquiring those skills is through conducting one’s own scholarly project. During the first year, students select a project to conduct over the succeeding three years, with careful mentorship and guidance.

Building clinical skills: Beginning early in the first year and continuing all four years, students will work individually and in small groups to build the clinical skills necessary to become expert clinicians and be well prepared to enter residency training. During the first two years most of this hands-on skills building will be conducted in the College’s Virtual Clinical Center that contains state of the art simulation technology and clinical rooms where students will work with live standardized patients, while being videotaped to allow faculty evaluation and feedback. This will be supplemented by visits to actual community clinical sites where students will be able to practice their skills, such as performing history and physical examinations, on patient volunteers.

Summer break: During the summer of your first year, you will enjoy a break from scheduled classes. During that time, you will have opportunities to complete electives in clinical disciplines or research. Your electives may take place at any of the four college campuses or elsewhere.

Leadership training

Doctors are called upon to play many leadership roles, but often lack preparatory training. As a physician, you might face a variety of leadership challenges, such as:

  • Leading a multidisciplinary health care team
  • Writing a research grant proposal or running a research project
  • Launching a community health foundation or a free clinic to help an underserved community

The Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine will teach you how to react nimbly and effectively to address leadership challenges. Integrated across the 4-year curriculum, this specialized training prepares you to work and lead in a team. It’s not about teaching you to take charge, but to solve problems. You will learn how to navigate team dynamics and deliver outstanding health care, even under challenging circumstances.

Topics explored
  • Team dynamics: Learn how to fully integrate the contributions of diverse health care professionals: nurse practitioners, pharmacists, medical assistants, psychologists, and more. You master techniques for mobilizing a team, engaging peers, and building synergies among different personalities.
  • Community transformation: Discover how you can successfully advocate for your patients, bring about positive change, and address health disparities that can prevail in medically underserved communities.
  • Resource development: Learn how to deliver quality health care in the face of scarce resources. At the same time, learn how to develop plans to recruit and find resources.
  • Benchmarking results: Good leaders always measure results. You will master ways to gauge the efficacy of your activities and chart a course for the future.
Capstone project

Leadership training culminates with a scholarly project. You investigate a topic of interest, contributing to the advancement of leadership in medicine and health care delivery.

Business management training

Across the 4-year curriculum, you will not only learn how to practice medicine, but how the “business” of medical practice actually works—both in outpatient practices and in hospitals.

If you plan to run your own clinic, you need to know the basics of how insurance contracts are negotiated. If you aim to become a CEO of a hospital system, you need to know about continuous quality improvement, root cause analysis, large-scale problem solving, and other managerial concepts.

Since business acumen may be key to your success as a physician, the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine treats leadership and the practical aspects of medicine as important topics in the curriculum.

Research and scholarly activity

The future of health care lies in evidence-based practice: pairing research results with clinical expertise to make decisions about patient care. By engaging in research and scholarly activities, you build a foundation of knowledge that equips you to practice evidence-based medicine. During your time at the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, you will engage in a research project or scholarly activity.

This is a unique opportunity for you to delve deeply into a topic—one that could be of vital importance to patients. You gain firsthand experience in data analysis and interpretation. Your experience prepares you to think critically and apply research-based evidence when making clinical decisions.

Choosing a topic

Your investigation will fall within one of the following areas of focus:

  • Community engagement and leadership
  • Biomedical sciences
  • Clinical sciences
  • Population health and global health
  • Medical education
  • Rural and remote health initiatives
  • Arts and humanities
  • Bioengineering and technology innovations

You may have the opportunity to work as part of a multidisciplinary research team.
Many studies at WSU bridge disciplines to work toward sustainable health outcomes.

To help you gather ideas and information, the college publicizes lab meetings, seminars, presentations, and other research-related events that you can attend. It also offers opportunities for participation in research and scholarly activities.

Research and scholarly activity examples
  •  Literature review or case study
  •  Collecting or entering and analyzing data
  •  Evaluating a community-based program
  •  Assisting with regulatory issues related to ongoing research activities
  •  Using an existing data set to generate hypotheses and conduct pilot analysis
Completing the project

Your advisors anticipate that there will be competing demands on your time, so the timeline to complete your scholarly project has considerable flexibility. To stay on track, you must submit a progress report annually. You will present your final report at the annual Dean’s Research Symposium before you start residency training.

Research electives

If you would like to pursue research beyond the requirement, you may enroll in research electives and selectives starting after your first year. You will work alongside faculty mentors who are actively engaged in biomedical research, community and population-based research, clinical and translational research, and research in medical education.

Opportunities to present and publish

The college encourages you to present your research findings or summation of your scholarly activity at regional, statewide, and national meetings, and to generate manuscripts for publication.

Research funding

The college identifies opportunities for extramural grant funding for student research and scholarly projects. It publicizes criteria for various grants and deadlines to apply. In addition, the vice dean for research manages an intramural fund to help with medical student research expenses. If you are delivering a presentation at a scientific meeting, you may be eligible for a stipend to cover the cost of posters, travel, and lodging.

Technology innovation

Physicians serving patients dispersed across a wide geographic area encounter unique information management problems. Technological innovations that bridge distance can empower doctors to better serve rural and underserved communities.

As a physician, you don’t need to personally develop technology. However, from the front line of patient care, you are in a unique position to identify problems and propose potential solutions.

The Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine equips you with problem-solving experience. It teaches you how to forge partnerships with developers who can translate your ideas into real-world tools, technologies, and processes.

Leveraging digital resources

As a soon-to-be-practicing physician, you need to know about the latest discoveries in the rapidly evolving field of medicine. Your lessons can’t wait for the next edition of a textbook to hit the press. The Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine equips you with the tools you need to stay current. It helps you learn how to find, filter, and apply information.

When you begin classes, you will be issued an iPad. Your course material will be online, up-to-date, and environmentally friendly.