MD student looking in a patient's ear

Curriculum Overview

Community-Based Medical Education

From Classroom to Clinic, Community-Informed Curriculum

The Washington State University Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine employs a distributive model of medical education, training students at existing community clinics and hospitals near WSU’s four regional campus locations. Beginning in their first year of medical school, our students gain exposure to a variety of clinical settings and work in teams of experienced health care professionals in the types of environments where they will ultimately practice as physicians.
While the traditional medical education model relies on a single university-owned and campus-based teaching hospital, our medical education curriculum model is central to fulfilling its mission to serve Washington and beyond through collaboration and problem-solving.

Training in Washington, for Washington

The community-based education model also benefits Washington residents. Of Washington’s 39 counties, 19 are medically underserved, especially rural areas, and 29 face a shortage of primary care providers. The College of Medicine aims to improve access to health care in these areas by training students from Washington to be the state’s next generation of health care leaders. Physicians are more likely to practice where they receive their medical education and training, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. The community-based education model prepares students to serve the communities where they are needed most.

MD student learning how to do an ultrasound on a knee

Advantages of the Community-Based Model for Students and Patients

Advantages for Medical Students

Relevant Real-World Setting

Learn in the real-world context of a range of community clinics and hospitals instead of a university teaching hospital, working closely with practicing physicians instead of primarily with residents. Because most of primary medical care occurs in the outpatient setting, this also gives the student interested in primary care a feel for settings they will work in as physicians.

Increased Training and Career Choice

Train at one of four regional medical campus locations in Washington––Everett, Spokane, Tri-Cities, or Vancouver––and gain exposure to the full spectrum of health care settings––larger urban hospitals, rural critical access centers, small clinics, mobile clinics, and more––to explore your career options and learn how to achieve outstanding health outcomes for your patients wherever you choose to practice.

Experienced Preceptorship and Coaching

Learn from the guidance of experienced physicians and other health care professionals in clinical settings. You will benefit from the depth and breadth of practical experience and wisdom earned by providers over their decades-long careers, preparing you to practice with greater independence as a resident and later a physician. Students also receive coaching from practicing physicians to help meet their educational and professional goals.

Expansive Professional Network

Build an exceptionally broad network of mentors and peers in the health care profession through your wide range of clinical experiences. This network will become a priceless source of information as a physician to stay abreast of new developments in the rapidly changing world of medicine.

Leadership Skills in Collaborative Environments

Learn how to successfully navigate the increasingly collaborative environment of twenty-first century health care as an integral member of multidisciplinary and interprofessional care teams, which often include physicians, nurses, pharmacists, registered dieticians, social workers, and more. A teams-based care approach is particularly important in rural and underserved areas, where physicians often leverage leadership skills to solve resource challenges and advocate for marginalized patients.

Advantages for Washington Residents

Increased Access to Health Care Services

In the short term, the College of Medicine places medical students in their final years of study in Washington communities where they contribute to professional health care teams. In addition to completing a rotation in an underserved community, all students volunteer at a community organization of their choice. In the long term, many of our students plan to return to Washington as practicing physicians after completing their residency training, increasing the number of local providers and filling critical gaps in access to health care. To facilitate this, during the admissions process the college seeks highly qualified candidates with ties to Washington, especially candidates who are from rural and underserved areas of the state and who have demonstrated their commitment to serving the Washington communities with the greatest need.

Improved Patient Care

Through community clinic and hospital partnerships with medical educators and researchers at WSU, Washington residents benefit from the latest medical research and evidenced-based health care practices. Preceptors, the community physicians who supervise and teach medical students, elevate the standard of care in their communities as they model exemplary care for students and stay current with the latest developments in their fields. Washington residents also benefit from students providing a fresh perspective as part of their care team, informed by cutting-edge course work and practical training that keeps pace with the constantly evolving medical field. Further, learning from real patient encounters is essential for producing empathetic physicians who communicate effectively with their patients.

Forging Future Advocates for Washington Communities

The community-based model not only increases medical students’ interest in practicing in rural and underserved communities, it also increases the likelihood that as physicians they will work as advocates for positive change on behalf of their communities, past research shows. Students become familiar with the community’s health care resources and needs and are equipped through the program’s curriculum to take a leadership role in public health initiatives, health care policy, and improving the capacity and sustainability of the local health care system.

Greater Cost Efficiency

Instead of owning and operating the costly infrastructure of a teaching hospital, the college keeps capital and operating costs down by building clinical partnerships with existing hospitals and clinics where community providers train students. As part of a public university, the college is committed to the effective stewardship of taxpayer dollars and donor gifts which help fund its mission.

“Patients play a critical role in shaping future physicians through sharing their perspectives on the needs in their community. They also enjoy the opportunity to spend extended time with a student amid a busy medical practice.” 

Kimberly Beine, MD, Interim Associate Dean for Curriculum

Explore the Community-Based Education Curriculum

Highlights of the Curriculum

Learn more about how our curriculum equips medical students to thrive in a rapidly evolving health care environment through clinical experience and interprofessional education, leadership and business administration training, original research, and more.

Curriculum by Program Year

See how classroom learning and clinical training are integrated from the start during four years of medical education.

Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship

Discover how the Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship differs from traditional block clerkships and enables students to gain clinical competencies across multiple specialties while maintaining relationships with patients and clinicians.

MD Calendars

View the MD-specific curriculum calendar and academic calendar; find information about the fee schedule.