UW School of Medicine III Requirement

UW School of Medicine–III

The purpose of the Independent Investigative Inquiry—the III—portion of the curriculum is to engage students in activities that will foster the skills of life-long learning essential for practicing physicians in the 21st century.

Objectives of a successful completion of the III include:

  • Obtaining first-hand experience in the acquisition and synthesis of new knowledge
  • Understanding a health-related issue in depth
  • Fostering a mentoring relationship with a faculty member outside the usual course structure
  • Summarizing the experience or findings in a written document

Each student is strongly urged to select a topic of particular interest to her or him, and to investigate the subject independently, following the advice of a faculty advisor and other resources in the WWAMI community. This is a unique opportunity for students to choose both the content and the form of their learning and to pursue an interest that may not be included elsewhere in the curriculum.

Students must complete their III and be awarded credit prior to moving on to clerkships in the third year.

There are five options to select from when fulfilling the III requirement. Each is undertaken between the student’s first and second year of medical school, and each has its own expectations, procedures, and deadlines. View the overview III Information Session presentation. Or watch the recording of the Seattle III Information Session from October 2016.

Note: Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) students do not have to complete the III as this requirement is fulfilled via their PhD dissertation.

Selective 1: Data Gathering/Hypothesis-Driven Inquiry

This selective takes the form of a basic laboratory study, a survey, secondary analysis of an existing dataset, a chart review, a qualitative study, or a prospective clinical trial. The student has an independent role and makes an intellectual contribution to the project. Students selecting this option can expect to learn the steps and logic involved in trying to resolve an empirical question through data collection and analysis. This type of research may also entail students learning how to conduct research in a way that conforms to human or animal use regulations.

Students may undertake research as part of a funded program such as MSRTP (Medical Student Research Training Program)*, Developmental Disabilities, ITHS TL-1 (Multidisciplinary Predoctoral Clinical Research Training Program), MSTAR (Medical Student Training in Aging Research), and other UWSOM-approved fellowships. Learn about Research Funding Options.

*The MSRTP is a very particular type of funded Selective 1 project, having its own application, deadlines, etc. Visit the MSRTP page to learn all about it.

Documents you need to read and complete for a Selective 1 (non-MSRTP projects):

  1. Selective 1 Guidelines
  2. Selective 1 Proposal

Selective 2: Systematic Literature Review

Students will conduct a systematic review of the literature which involves developing a hypothesis and using published material to explore the issue in depth. An unresolved scientific question is posed, relevant to the practice of clinical medicine. Students who choose a Selective 2 can expect to learn and develop the skills involved in designing an answerable question, systematically searching medical literature, and critically reviewing and evaluating said literature. Students will also gain an understanding of research methods and design.

It is ideal to design a PICOS question for a III literature review:

A Population (or problem) receiving an Intervention (test, treatment, or placebo) as Compared to another test/treatment/placebo producing an Outcome (disease or improvement) associated with research Study designs.

Some examples of Selective 2 research:

  • The Efficacy of Yoga Interventions in Reducing Salivary Cortisol in Adults: A Literature Review
  • Communication in the Interpreted Medical Encounter, with a Focus on Rapport Development: A Review of Study Design
  • Systematic Literature Review on Malaria Vaccine Efficacy

Documents you need to read and complete for a Selective 2:

  1. Selective 2 Guidelines
  2. Selective 2 Proposal

Selective 3: Experience-Driven Inquiry: RUOP

The Rural/Underserved Opportunities Program (RUOP) is a four-week, elective immersion experience in community medicine. During their rotation, students live in rural or urban underserved communities throughout Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, or Idaho (WWAMI). They work side-by-side with local physicians providing health care to underserved populations. The program is administered by the UW Department of Family Medicine.

The Selective 3 project can take several forms, including a community needs assessment, a plan for a community health intervention, or an evaluation of a service delivery project. The process to apply for a RUOP experience, as well as fulfillment components, are managed directly through the UW Department of Family Medicine.

Selective 4: Special Simulation Selective

Working with members of the staff at the WWAMI Institute for Simulation in Healthcare (WISH), students have the opportunity to research and develop the content for one or more simulated patients when they choose this selective. WISH maintains an organizational presence at a number of WWAMI locations, including three primary physical facilities for training located at the University of Washington Medical Center’s Surgery Pavilion, Harborview Medical Center’s Ninth & Jefferson Building, and most recently, Northwest Hospital and Medical Center’s Community Health Education and Simulation Center.

WISH students will contribute to the development of innovative educational materials, which may include:

  • Formal needs assessment
  • Online modules for skills training
  • Creation of low-cost, distributable “task-trainers” for skills training across WWAMI
  • Simulation scenario design and development

Learn all about the WISH Selective 4. Note that applications are due in February of each year. As with RUOP, the process to apply, and the III fulfillment components, are managed directly by the WISH program. If you’re interested in applying for the WISH III selective, please contact Bridget Kovach.

Selective 5: Promoting Community Health in Developing Countries: GHIP

Students who participate in the Global Health Immersion Program (GHIP) develop an experience-driven investigation of an issue as they spend a minimum of eight weeks in a developing country working to understand and help improve the local health communities. GHIP is an intensive, academically rigorous program for students who want to gain a first-hand understanding of the health challenges facing people in low- and middle-income countries. GHIP aims to provide medical students interested in global health a transformative experience that will deepen their understanding of the causes and impact of illness in developing countries.

Countries where a student may spend the summer include: Kenya, Nepal, Peru, Uganda, and Vietnam.

Visit the Department of Global Health to read about the requirements of the program, and how to apply. Contact Rachel Lazzar, MSW, 206.685.7418, if you would like to learn more about the Selective 5.

Completing the III

Each selective involves specific components and requirements that need to be met, in order for III credit to be awarded.

  • Proposals: Each selective has a process, involving an application or proposal, that must be followed in order for projects to be officially approved as a III. Students must submit proposals even for fellowships, specific programs (e.g., INSIGHT), and various other summer scholar programs. Proposals are reviewed and approved by the III Committee in the spring of each academic year.
  • Final paper and faculty evaluation: Selectives 1 and 2 require that a final paper and faculty evaluation be submitted in the month of March following the summer of research.
  • Poster Session: Medical Student III Poster Sessions are held across the WWAMI sites between October and November. Students who are doing an MSRTP are expected, but not required, to present; presentation is optional for other Selective 1 projects and for Selective 2 projects; and students completing a Selective 3 or 5 must present a poster.
  • Other types of final projects may be due upon completion of specific programs.

Western Student Medical Research Forum (WSMRF)

While not a requirement, we do encourage all second year students to participate in the Western Student Medical Research Forum WSMRF, held every January in Carmel, CA. For interested students whose projects are selected, WSMRF is a great opportunity to present their work at a regional conference and have an abstract published. In August, students are sent communication about submitting an abstract for consideration.


Students who have received a Master’s or a PhD degree, with a thesis or dissertation in a discipline basic to medicine, or those who are first authors of published papers in a peer-reviewed medical or scientific journal, may petition for a waiver of the III requirement. Petitions for waivers must be submitted before the last Friday of the first year of medical school. Any papers used to fulfill requirements in other courses or schools are not acceptable for waivers. Papers must be published by the last Friday in March of the first year of medical school. MSTP students fulfill the III requirement through their PhD dissertation. Waiver requests should be sent to the Curriculum team.


It’s very important that you monitor timelines and stick to deadlines. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, extensions are not generally granted. The Curriculum team does its best to communicate deadlines well in advance, and sends reminders frequently through the fall and winter about III due dates. Be sure to keep an eye on your UW email account! If you ever have a question about a deadline, don’t hesitate to reach out to the appropriate contact.

As previously mentioned, each selective has its own set of deadlines. View specific information at III Timelines .


There are many resources at your disposal that can aid in your research project! Listed here are just a few of them.

  • Library Resources for Your Research: At this link you’ll find efficient background, research, and writing guidance about your topic. Your School of Medicine librarian (Nikki Dettmar) is available to help with brief in-person, phone, Skype, and Google Hangout consultations, from the start of your project—to save hours of time later—and assist with additional searching strategies if you are not finding the best results.The computers in the Commons have SPSS (a software package used for statistical analysis) available on PCs and Macs. The Commons is at the west end of the upper level of the Health Sciences Library (3rd floor, T-wing).
  • UW Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology: This service allows off-campus use of certain statistical programs. Check out this list to see supported software.
  • UW Department of Biostatistics: University of Washington faculty, staff, and students can receive limited, free statistical consulting by faculty and students from the Departments of Biostatistics and Statistics. To schedule an appointment and get more information, please visit the Statistical Consulting Program.


Your fist point of contact for general questions about the III is Curriculum. For specific Selectives, feel free to contact the following individuals:

  1. Selectives 1 and 2: Curriculum
  2. Selective 3: Toby Keys, 206.616.7832
  3. Selective 4: Bridget Kovach, 206.598.2710
  4. Selective 5: Rachel Lazzar, MSW, 206.685.7418