Academics » MD Program » Curriculum


The curriculum leading to the Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree is designed to provide a medical education that prepares graduates comprehensively for residency training, provides them the experience on which to base their career selection, and prepares them for professional lives of continuous learning.

The GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) launched an exciting revised curriculum for the MD program, beginning with the class starting in August 2014.

Features of the Revised Curriculum:

  • Increased incorporation of active learning in place of traditional large-class lectures, which provides our students with an earlier clinical experience
  • Enhanced professional development of students
  • Integration of material to enhance learning and retention
  • Added independent study time
  • Additional focus on topics such as public health and clinical reasoning
  • Each incoming first-year student receives an iPad
  • Moving toward a paperless curriculum
  • Clinical clerkships begin in spring of second year
  • Multiple opportunities for students to explore career options in the full spectrum of medical specialties
  • Unique only-in-Washington, D.C. educational experiences such as visiting Capitol Hill to learn about health care policy or visiting the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to learn about medical ethics.

The MD program curriculum has three phases:

  • Fundamentals of Medicine
  • Fundamentals of Clinical Practice, and
  • Transition to Advanced Clinical Practice

1. Fundamentals of Medicine

After an introductory Foundations Course with a focus on core basic science principles and basic clinical skills, the Fundamentals of Medicine phase is organized into organ system-based blocks that occur in the fall and spring semesters for the first year and the fall semester of second year. Both basic science disciplines (gross and microscopic anatomy, biochemistry/genetics, physiology, pathology, pharmacology, and microbiology) and important theme material (human behavior and development, clinical skills and reasoning, public health and health policy, professional development and diversity) are interwoven throughout each block. For example, instead of a separate, stand-alone anatomy course, anatomy is integrated into the block schedule, with cardiac anatomy taught during the cardiology/pulmonary/renal block using a combination of dissection, prosection, or simulation. Classroom sessions utilize a variety of active learning techniques, and content is often taught in small groups, using case-based formats.

Starting with the Class of 2022, the Clinical Skills and Reasoning and Professional Development thematic material will be offered as 3 longitudinal courses across the preclinical curriculum, Practice of Medicine 1, 2, and 3. Also new for the Class of 2022, is the Populations, Patients and Systems (PPS) curriculum. In the pre-clinical phase, PPS content will be contained in three semester-long courses: Fundamentals of Patients, Populations, and Systems; Patients in Health Systems; and, Applying Principles of Patients, Populations, and Systems. The Practice of Medicine and PPS content will be linked to Block topics and themes, and integrated when possible.

  • First-year student orientation
  • Foundations of Medicine Course
  • Immunology/Hematology/Inflammation/Infectious Disease
  • Cardiology/Pulmonary/Renal
  • Gastrointestinal/Liver
  • Musculoskeletal/Spinal
  • Brain & Behavior
  • Endocrinology/Reproduction
  • Practice of Medicine 1, 2 and 3 (starting with the class of 2022)
  • Fundamentals of Patients, Populations, and Systems (starting with the class of 2022)
  • Patients in Health Systems (starting with the class of 2022)
  • Applying Principles of Patients, Populations, and Systems (starting with the class of 2022)

2. Fundamentals of Clinical Practice

After a two-month period to study and taking Step 1 of the USMLE, students begin their clinical experiences in March/April of the second year. The bulk of the Fundamentals of Clinical Practice consists of a series of required clerkships and elective sequences designed to prepare students for graduate training in any field of their choice, while providing them with extensive exposure to a variety of fields to enable them to make educated career decisions. Intersessions will be utilized to reinforce basic science and longitudinal themes. At the beginning of the Fundamentals of Clinical Practice, students will have a month-long course focused on enhancing clinical skills—including procedures such as IV placement and phlebotomy—to prepare students for ward rotations. Throughout the Fundamentals of Clinical Practice, students will also participate in a Longitudinal Primary Care Clinic (LPCC) that complements our Primary Care Clerkship. Students will work one half-day every other week in a primary care setting (general internal medicine, general pediatrics, family medicine, or geriatrics) regardless of their current rotation.

  • Foundations of Clinical Practice
  • Internal Medicine (8 weeks)
  • Surgery (8 weeks)
  • Pediatrics (8 weeks)
  • Obstetrics/Gynecology (6 weeks)
  • Primary Care (4 weeks) plus a longitudinal primary care clinic
  • Psychiatry (6 weeks)
  • Electives

3. Transition to Advanced Clinical Practice

The final year of study includes a few required advanced clerkships (i.e. emergency medicine, acting internship) and a variety of elective experiences at GW and its affiliated hospitals; students also have the option to take a limited number of electives elsewhere. Students are required to complete a scholarly project that they started in Fundamentals of Clinical Practice. Elective time during the transition phase may be used to complete this research. Finally, the Transition to Advanced Clinical Practice phase includes an intensive, one-month capstone experience involving the refinement of many technical skills and reinforcement of essential clinical competencies. Students are grouped by future specialty for much of this course, receiving direct mentorship from faculty physicians in their specialty. The primary objective of the course is to prepare students to perform at a high level as they transition to residency.

  • Acting Internship
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Capstone
  • Electives
  • Neurology (can also be taken in the third year)
  • Anesthesiology

Scholarly Concentration Program

The Scholarly Concentration Program is an educational program designed to enrich students' experiences and opportunities and expose them to various concentrations of study. SMHS believes this program will further students' medical careers by providing a broader health care perspective and exposure to leadership opportunities.

Students have the opportunity to choose a program of study in one of several areas of health care outside of the standard clinical curriculum. The Scholarly Concentration Program's areas of study are:

While the Scholarly Concentration program is not required, a majority of students participate in this program.