Radiology resident performing procedure

Years 3 & 4

The Branches

Flexible framework for lifelong learning.

The M3 and M4 year, collectively known as the Branches, will prepare you for residency and continue you on the path to being an impactful physician in your area of interest.

Key features of the Branches include:

  • Working one-on-one with a Branch advisor to define your area of interest and create your individualized development plan.
  • Refining clinical skills through a wide variety of elective offerings.
  • Completing a Capstone for Impact.

We aspire to provide you with the skills to become a leader in the health of society and have a broad impact on our world. We will teach you how to understand and apply science, how to educate, how to be innovative, how to be a leader, how to communicate, how to ask questions, and how to inspire patients and other people.

Michael J. Englesbe, M.D., Darling Professor of Surgery and Branch Director
Researcher working in lab

The Branches consists of three distinct phases:


In the Discovery phase, you will select one of the four Branches that aligns with your areas of interest:

Patients and Populations: Focus on primary and specialty care in hospital and clinic settings with emphasis on longitudinal continuity of care opportunities. All students in this branch participate in a Longitudinal Clinic where they spend one half day per week with a single preceptor for an entire year. Students will learn principles of population health management, team-based care and coordination, strategies to reduce healthcare disparities, pharmacology and medication management, and cost-effective provisions of care.

Procedure-Based Care: Focus on clinical skills development through rotations and simulation/lab-based coursework, advanced anatomy and physiology training, wound care, focused diagnostic radiology/pathology, pain management and patient-centered clinical decision making.

Diagnostics and Therapeutics: Focus on advanced technologies and the diagnosis of disease including coursework on the science of advanced medical technologies, clinical rotations (e.g., radiology, pathology, radiation oncology) and patient-centered approaches to engage technology in care.

Systems and Hospital-Based Care: Focus on advanced training in navigating patient care systems, including clinical rotations (e.g., consults, inpatient and clinic), anatomy, relevant procedural training, focused radiology and pathology, care coordination and systems management.

Students may enter any specialty from any Branch.


The Focus phase is an intense clinical time that serves two functions: to master clinical skills and to bring core foundational science into your specific clinical area of interest. You will learn to ask why, digging deeper into the scientific principles behind clinical care. Core components of this phase include:

Branch Science

Integrated science learning still plays an important role in the Branches. Course content and context will vary by Branch, allowing you to develop core knowledge and skills in an area most relevant to your interests.

Clinical Electives

You can tailor your learning by choosing from 150+ exploratory electives.


The Finishing phase is a time to refine skills and prepare for residency.

As part of this phase, you will be asked to teach a foundational science course and share your clinical experiences to inspire other students. This will help to prepare you for the educator duties of a resident.

Residency Prep Courses

At the end of M4 year, you will have the option to take one or more Residency Prep Courses in the following specialties: surgery, OB/GYN, internal medicine, pediatrics, primary care and emergency medicine. These are four- to eight-week courses are designed to immerse senior medical students in real-life scenarios that they will encounter in residency. Students gain confidence by developing practical skills through simulated paging exercises with RNs, mock codes in the Simulation Center and targeted didactics. Assessments provide essential feedback throughout your RPC, and a faculty letter to your residency program director will be submitted at the end of the course.

Read AAMC News story about RPCs.

At a Glance

Please note, this diagram is provided for reference only. Curriculum details are subject to change. Updated January 2019.