MD Program Years 3 & 4
A person with a mask working in an operating room

The Branches

Flexible framework for lifelong learning.

Branching Out
Students watching a demonstration by provider

The M3 and M4 year, collectively known as the Branches, will prepare you for residency and continue you on the path to being a physician making meaningful impact 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 variety of required and optional electives
  • Working on and completing a Capstone for Impact
  • Continued support and guidance by your entire team of advisors, directors, mentors, coaches and counselors

The Branches offer so much flexibility to shape our own clinical training. We have 17 whole months to hash out our specialties and hone our clinical skills through Branches electives. It's easy to take a year out to do research or pursue a dual degree. All the opportunities are there for us to take, and the curriculum encourages us to expand our horizons."

The Four Branches
Patients and Populations

Focus on primary and specialty care in hospital and clinic settings. Students in this branch 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 and more.

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.

Procedure-Based Care

Focus on clinical skills development through experiences in rotations and simulation or lab-based coursework, advanced anatomy and physiology training, wound care, focused diagnostic radiology and pathology, pain management and patient-centered clinical decision making.

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.

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
MD, Darling Professor of Surgery and Branch Director
The Branches consist of three distinct phases

The Discovery phase marks the beginning of your access to 150+ exploratory electives to help define your clinical focus and career pathway. These two- to four-week blocks can be clinical, non-clinical or research-related. You can even create your own individually arranged electives to match your specific interests, either now or later in the Branches.

If you choose to do a research elective in the early Branches, you will be eligible to apply for the Short Term Biomedical Research Training Program and conduct research in a broad range of interests. This 8-week program is funded by an NIH training grant and pays a stipend of $4000. Students may select any University of Michigan faculty member as a mentor.

You’ll also begin to integrate 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.

  • Health Systems Science - Focuses on topics such as quality, patient safety, value in clinical care, interprofessional teamwork and clinical informatics
  • Patient-Based Scientific Inquiry - Involves formulating and answering focused questions to address unexplained decisions/outcomes based on one of your own cases. You’ll share the results of these inquiries through short presentations.
  • Other flexible, customizable activities related to the science and practice of medicine

Course content and context will vary by Branch, allowing you to develop core knowledge and skills in an area most relevant to your interests.

The Focus phase is an intense clinical time where most of the core clinical course requirements are met, including:

  • 1 ICU SubInternship
  • 1 Non-ICU SubInternship
  • 1 Emergency Medicine Rotation
  • 1 Opioid Best Practices Online Course
  • 4 Four-Week Clinical Electives offered by 20+ Departments

Additional two-week electives are also available during this phase. Time frames for clinical course requirements may vary by Branch.

The Finishing phase is a time to continue taking electives, interview for residency, refine skills, and wrap up your Capstone for Impact project.

Evaluation in the Branches
The Branches Competency Committee performs holistic review of student performance during the Branches with input from the student, clinical evaluators, Branch Advisor and Branch Director.

Residency Prep Courses
At the end of M4 year, you will take a Residency Prep Course in one the following areas: procedures, OB/GYN, internal medicine, pediatrics, family medicine or emergency medicine. These 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.

At a Glance
Branch Overview diagram

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