Patients, Populations, and Systems Courses

The George Washington School of Medicine & Health Sciences (SMHS) seeks to graduate “clinician-citizens” who are prepared to deliver excellent patient care in 21st century health systems who can identify and address important health system, community and public health issues that impact the health of individuals and diverse populations. GW graduates are expected to engage with communities to improve health and promote health equity for local, national, and global communities; perform effectively on interprofessional-interdisciplinary teams; and serve as leaders and advocates to improve the health and lives of patients and communities. GW SMHS is one of the few US schools of medicine to offer comprehensive integrated public health, population heath and health systems science content into their MD curriculum.

The “Patients, Populations, and Systems” (PPS) courses are given over the first three semesters of the MD curriculum to facilitate students’ ability to integrate basic sciences, clinical care, and population health, health policy and public health with systems-based practice in order to promote the health of patients and communities as well as to improve the conditions and systems that impact them. PPS course content focuses on applied learning with weekly interactive class sessions, smaller group case discussions interspersed throughout, and experiential learning opportunities through topic-relevant  Clinical Public Health Summits.

PPS-1: Fundamentals of Patients, Populations, and Systems – MD 1st Semester

The first course in the PPS curriculum, “Fundamentals of Patients, Populations, and Systems” provides students with foundational knowledge and skills for understanding and working in population health and health systems. Topics in this course include:

  • Foundations of Public and Population Health
  • Evidence-Based Practice in Population Health
  • Public Health Strategies and Tools
  • Basics of Health Systems 

PPS-2: Patients in Health Systems – MD 2nd Semester

The second course, “Patients in Health Systems,” integrates students’ knowledge of and skills in population health and health systems into the clinical setting with a focus on understanding and improving patient care systems. Topics in this course include: 

  • The Determinants of Health
  • Evidence-Based Medicine 
  • Health Technology
  • Healthcare Quality and Patient Safety

PPS-3: Applied Population Health – MD 3rd Semester

The third and final course in the PPS curriculum, "Applied Population Health," expands students' knowledge and skills in population health and health systems by challenging students to apply their learning to the case management of individual patients, engagement with communities, and engagement with the policy process. During the first half of the semester, students will use community violence as an extended case study to understand the various roles physicians may play in addressing a complex public health problem. During the second half of the semester, students will delve deeper into structural issues that are often the root causes of existing health disparities. The course combines a focus on problems that are relevant to DC with the option of students focusing on other local regions in the US they are personally connected to. Topics in this course include: 

  • Social and Structural Determinants of Health
  • Engaging in the Policy Process
  • Addressing Equity in Population Health
  • Healthcare Access and Advocacy
  • Community-based Interventions to Halt Violence

For further information about the PPS Curriculum, please contact Ms. Kat Binney at