Foundations of Medicine

Transition to Medical School

This first course is designed to help you transition to the rigor and expectations of medical school and give you the skills for success.

Biomedical Courses 

The biomedical sciences are presented as an integrated curriculum of thirteen courses over the first 19 months of medical school. Traditional discipline-based content such as biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, and pathology are presented in a unified approach that emphasizes clinical relevance. Courses are designed around functions and organ-based systems, and guide you through normal processes as well as the pathophysiology of disease and therapeutic interventions. All course content is anchored to relevant clinical applications that include team-based learning exercises.

Biomedical science faculty include a core of dedicated full-time medical educators with extensive experience teaching the undergraduate medical curriculum. These basic science faculty work closely with clinical faculty in the design and delivery of curriculum content. This collaboration ensures that you are exposed to the most current and relevant material that prepares you to be successful in clinical rotations and throughout your career.

  • Team-Based Learning (TBL)
    Each TBL starts with an individual readiness assurance test (iRAT) based on weekly coursework and assigned pre-reading. Following the iRAT and working in groups of approximately six, student teams work through the same questions in a group readiness assurance test (gRAT). The team responses are reviewed with faculty to ensure that everyone understands the concepts and clinical applications. Faculty lead the groups through application exercises, integrating basic science and clinical perspectives. TBLs engage students throughout the learning process, increasing understanding and retention. You participate in 1-2 TBL sessions each week.
  • Didactic Sessions
    There are 5-7 hours of traditional lectures each week with both basic science and clinical faculty delivering information. Live streaming and recordings of lectures are provided.
  • Guided Independent Learning
    We use interactive electronic materials to provide independent learning resources, which allows you flexibility to choose when you study, and also provides opportunities for review of the material. The electronic books include videos, diagrams, links to journal articles and electronic textbooks, and quizzes to check your learning progress. Each week has several independent learning resources.
  • Explorations
    Explorations helps you to build the basic skills for continuous self-improvement and independent lifelong learning. You identify learning topics related to curricular content, develop learning objectives, search the literature for credible resources, synthesize and evaluate information, and create a learning product that responds to your objectives. There is protected time in the curriculum for you to present findings to peers and supervising faculty so you receive constructive feedback on your self-directed learning skills.
  • Labs
    Anatomy, histology, and pathology labs are held approximately weekly for one-half day and integrate gross anatomy, microscopic anatomy, and pathology with the concepts of the current course. Gross anatomy is taught longitudinally as you progress through the organ systems using prosected cadavers, student dissection, plasticized specimens, virtual dissectors, and models.
  • Simulation-Based Learning
    Simulation-based learning begins in the very first week at WMed. Simulation activities range from learning to perform a wide range of medical procedures, to full immersion in complex team-based clinical scenarios using high-fidelity patient simulators, to one-on-one encounters with standardized patients. This level of simulation training throughout your time at WMed prepares you for clinical rotations and your future career. Check out the WMed Simulation Center.

Introductory Clinical Experiences (ICE)

ICE provides early and regular experiences to understand the breadth of medicine. You begin your professional identity formation as you gain comfort in clinical settings. ICE brings relevancy to the knowledge you acquire in the basic science curriculum as you integrate it with experiences in clinical medicine. You spend one-half day every 1-2 weeks rotating through the ICE components, each intended to provide a unique exposure to medicine and the healthcare system.

ICE experiences include following a panel of patients across several months of care, interprofessional learning with a variety of medical and allied healthcare providers, and hands-on learning from physician preceptors in a primary care setting where you gain experience taking histories, performing physical examinations, and presenting your findings to clinical faculty preceptors.

  • Medical First Responder (MFR)
    As part of the first ICE course, you begin MFR—a fast paced, hands-on course where you obtain the skills and knowledge to perform basic patient assessments, manage simple medical emergencies, and provide basic cardiac life support. During the Capstone, you and your colleagues are challenged to respond to a wide variety of simulated emergency conditions. You apply your new skills under very realistic conditions requiring effective teamwork to be successful.

Profession of Medicine (POM)

  • Principles of Medicine
    Principles of Medicine covers health systems science and additional topics related to the practice of medicine. Themes include professionalism, leadership, ethics, advocacy, patient safety, health policy, healthcare law, research design, epidemiology, and more. It is a longitudinal curriculum spanning all four years of medical school.
  • Clinical Skills
    Clinical Skills gives you the opportunity to learn and practice skills physicians use every day including communication and interpersonal skills, teamwork, history taking, physical examination, and simple procedures. You begin applying these skills in our virtual clinic with standardized patients and in our virtual hospital with high-fidelity patient simulators. You work closely with the coaching of Clinical Skills Educators in a low-stress environment to prepare you to succeed in the real clinical environment. During the second year, you rotate in a hospital inpatient site to hone your skills in history taking and physical examinations with actual patients. Clinical Skills is scheduled for four hours each week.
  • Active Citizenship
    You are part of a team working directly with an affiliated community organization whose mission is related to health, well-being, and service for residents of Kalamazoo County. This service learning fosters your understanding of social determinants of health as well as advocacy, team-based skills, population health, and cultural competence. Your group may design a community project that will benefit the organization and the clients they serve.

Early Electives

Throughout your first two years, you are able to select four one-week electives to explore your individual areas of interest. These electives range from anesthesiology to research, anatomic prosection, massage therapy, pediatrics, forensic pathology, and everything in between.

Unscheduled Time

There is time each week that is unscheduled and allows for independent and group study. Additionally, all students have free access to our onsite fitness center. A wide variety of student interest groups are also available to get involved with to explore your interests.

Advances and Perspectives in Medicine

During each year of medical school, you choose events of interest to attend from a large number of events that include a diverse mix of basic science seminars, clinical seminars, humanities lectures, ethics discussions, workshops, plays, demonstrations, simulations, and conferences. You submit a brief reflection for selected events.


  • Weekly formative exams provide individual feedback on your learning progress. Faculty are available to address questions about material, which provides an opportunity for you to better understand the concepts throughout the course.
  • At the end of each course a summative exam is administered. Capstone review sessions with faculty prior to the exam assist with your preparation. 
  • Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCEs) are held in POM-Clinical Skills to prepare you for clinical rotations and also for USMLE Step 2 CS.
  • During the Foundation Curriculum, you have four opportunities to take the NBME Comprehensive Basic Science Examination (CBSE). You must meet the competency requirement to advance to the Year 3 curriculum. These exams help you assess your learning needs and provide guidance to prepare for successfully passing USMLE Step 1.

Transition to Clinical Applications

This course is a bridge between Foundations of Medicine and your core clerkships, and prepares you to succeed in the clinical setting. You gain more experience using electronic health records and learn more about expectations in the clinical setting, clinical assessments, and common procedures.

Decompressed Curriculum

Foundations of Medicine is decompressed, with a total of 14 weeks of vacation over 20 months. The decompressed curriculum is designed to provide time for wellness, vacation, electives, or remediation between courses.