MD student looking in a patient's ear

Curriculum Overview

Community-Based Medical Education

A Model with Profound Advantages for Students and Patients

The Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine was founded to improve access to health services in medically underserved communities in Washington. The college will train students in hospitals and clinics across the state of Washington, beginning in the first year of medical school. Physicians are more likely to practice in the areas where they receive their medical training, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.  This model of training equips future physicians to become health care leaders, ready to serve communities where they are needed most.

Growing Need for Physicians in Washington

Nearly a quarter of Americans live in rural communities, but only 10 percent of physicians practice in those areas. Many rural residents lack access to medical care. In the state of Washington, nearly half of all physicians are located in urban King County. Physician shortages plague vast areas of the state.

16 of 39 Washington counties are severely underserved, with 10.4 or fewer doctors per 10,000 residents. These residents live mostly in rural areas, where hospitals and clinics often struggle to attract doctors to their communities
1,695 Primary care physicians will be needed between 2010 and 2030, or 85 more per year, indicated by Washington Population projections

What Is the Community-Based Model?

The traditional model of medical education revolves around a university-owned, campus-based teaching hospital. In contrast, the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine employs a distributive model of medical education. Students will gain clinical experience in a variety of hospitals and health care settings. Clinical experiences will take place in communities near WSU campus locations across the state: Spokane, Tri-Cities, Vancouver, and Everett. Students receive training in the kinds of environments where they will ultimately settle to practice as physicians.

“Only one out of every 1,000 patients is actually in a big hospital. Traditional medical schools focus 90 percent of their training on the 1 percent of patients in the hospital environment. We’re changing the focus of medical education to align with where the patients are.”

—Dawn DeWitt, MD, MSc, CMedEd, MACP, FRACP, FRCP-London, Senior Associate Dean, Center for InterProfessional Health Education Research & Scholarship (CIPHERS)

Advantages of Community-Based Medical Education

For Citizens of Washington
  • Extensively prepared doctors: Students will gain exposure to the full spectrum of health care settings: doctor’s offices, clinics, and hospitals. Their training will encompass all levels of patient care across the life continuum for all types of patients. Students will also have extensive interprofessional experience and training in leadership.
  • Physicians placed where needed most: Graduates are more likely to enter residency programs and practice in rural, undeserved settings, filling gaps in access to medical care. When selecting students for admission, the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine will seek—among a range of characteristics—students from rural and underserved areas of the state. Enrolling students from these communities raises the likelihood that graduates will ultimately practice in those regions.
  • Ability to improve health community-wide: Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine students will master techniques in leadership and collaboration. Graduates will be prepared for leadership roles that can improve health outcomes for entire populations.
  • Cost efficiency: The school does not own and operate a teaching hospital. It keeps capital and operating costs down by building clinical partnerships with existing community hospitals and clinics. Practicing physicians and teams of health care professionals will train students in these community settings.
For Medical Students
  • Career choice: You will be trained to succeed in the full spectrum of health care settings—large urban hospitals, rural critical access centers, and more. You will learn how to achieve outstanding health outcomes for your patients in any environment where you choose to practice.
  • Leadership skills: Increasingly, health care is delivered in team-based settings. In the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, you will learn to navigate team dynamics and recognize the value contributed by other health care professionals nurses, pharmacists, medical assistants, and many other disciplines.
  • Health system acumen: Medical education programs often don’t teach you how to manage a health care practice. But in your 4 years in the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, you will build a solid understanding of health system fundamentals. For instance, you will learn about clinical workflow, how to use an electronic medical record (EMR) system, and how health system finances work.
  • Professional network, virtual connections: Through your wide range of clinical experiences, you will build an uncommonly broad network of peers in the health profession. As a physician, that network becomes a priceless source of information. You and your peers can help one another stay abreast of new developments in the rapidly changing world of medicine. A WSU-hosted technology platform joins you, your mentors, and colleagues in a virtual network of health professionals.
Students working in Virtual Clinic Center

Virtual Clinic Center

The Virtual Clinical Center is the central point for all simulation-based training at the at the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine. The center boasts 10 clinical exam rooms, two high-fidelity simulation suites, a classroom for skills-based instruction, a conference room to support video debriefing, and lab space for the creation of low-cost tissue models in-house.