The Best Medical Schools in Washington State

Washington is primarily known for its coastal geography, weather, Starbucks…and apples. But what about its educational institutions? Did you know that the state is home to some of the finest medical schools in the country? After all, outstanding medical schools are not exclusive to the West and East Coasts.

Washington schools train some of the best physicians. While these schools are not as old as some of the east coast medical schools, they have, nevertheless, amazing medical schools any serious student should consider. The schools on this list were selected primarily on the basis of their rankings on the latest US News & World Report rankings. But, as we are fond of saying here at the College Gazette, numbers and stats are not everything.

The schools were selected based on a combination of other, important factors such as residency matches, the range and variety of opportunities for hands-on training, and the quality and impact of their social missions. All of the schools are focused on training highly competent physicians to serve underprivileged and neglected populations, especially in areas that are experiencing a drastic shortage of quality medical care.

3. Washington State University Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine (Spokane, WA)

Washington State University Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine
WSU, WSU HS Spokane, CC BY 2.0

When it comes to medical schools or programs, older does not always mean best or superior quality. Often, the newest programs quickly rise to the top because of their innovative approaches and ever-expanding offerings and opportunities. 

Despite being less than a decade old, the Washington State University Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine is a burgeoning school, with a newly established rural residency program, an innovative, community-based curriculum, and numerous clinical partnerships with hospitals and clinics across the state. It has already proven itself to be an impactful institution where the brightest and most motivated, aspiring physicians can launch their careers.

In addition to its expanding facilities and resources, the Floyd College of Medicine is located in an economic and cultural hub with a rapidly growing healthcare industry. Its proximity to six major hospitals means that students have ample opportunities for hands-on, patient-centered training. 

From the start, students receive a rigorous classroom education and an immersive, clinical experience, made possible by the school’s clinical partnerships throughout Spokane, Everett, the Tri-Cities, and Vancouver

In the first year, students gain knowledge in the foundational sciences for medicine. Scientific learning is interspersed with the fundamentals of clinical training. Notable partnerships include Bonner General Health and Hospital, Planned Parenthood, Providence Holy Family Hospital, Pullman Regional Hospital, and many more.

The school boasts an outstanding Teaching Health Clinic that operates as a site for the Spokane campus’ medical residency programs and as a rotation site for health science students. Under the supervision of seasoned physicians, medical residents treat and manage patients in radiology, internal medicine, family medicine, obstetrics, and sports medicine.

Despite that it is a relatively new school, the Floyd College of Medicine offers the prospective student many opportunities and a promising future in medicine.

2. Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences (Yakima, WA)

Another school on younger side, the Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences is a private school established in 2005. PNWUHS consists of the College of Osteopathic Medicine. The curriculum combines classroom-based learning, focused on the sciences, with off-site clinical rotations throughout the Pacific Northwest

Rotations include a four-week rotation in rural family medicine, in which students are trained to tackle medical issues faced by underserved and rural populations. Preclinical courses include Osteopathic Principles and Practice (OPP) and Scientific Foundations of Medicine.

Every year, between 98-100 % of graduates secure a residency match, with a majority going into general practice, internal medicine, pediatrics, and emergency medicine. Students also have an average Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX) passage rate of around 92%, occasionally exceeding the national average. With impressive stats like these, PNWUHS is yet more proof that the oldest med schools do not have a monopoly in training the next crop of high-quality physicians who make an impact in the community.

Faculty at PNWUHS are nationally recognized experts in their respective specialties. The current Chair of Clinical Medicine and Chief of Internal Medicine, Mark Baldwin, D.O, brings over three decades of experience into the classroom and into his training of young osteopaths. Ruth Bishop, Assistant Professor of Family Medicine, practiced general surgery for eight years, prior to earning a Master’s in Public Health, serving on the Industrial Insurance Medical Advisory Committee, and landing a teaching position at Pacific Northwest.

In recent years, the number of applicants has been growing. In Fall 2020, the school received 4,455 and only 7% of applicants were admitted.

1. University of Washington School of Medicine (Seattle, WA)

University of Washington Medical Center
Atomic Taco, UWMC, CC BY-SA 3.0

Landing the #1 spot on the US News & World Report list for “Best Medical School for Primary Care” and #7 for research, the University of Washington School of Medicine is a premier institution. 

In 2019, the school received over $780 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health, being second to Harvard University. UNWSN has been a research powerhouse for many years, being at the forefront of research on Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, diabetes, genetic disorders, heart disease, infectious disease, multiple sclerosis, stroke. 

The school operates numerous state-of-the-art facilities and labs, including the Harborview Medical Center Campus, which is the site of UW Research Programs, and the biomedical and clinical research hub at South Lake Union.

Complementing its high-caliber research profile is the school’s innovative and humanitarian curriculum. The overarching mission of UWSM is to train physicians who can make a national impact, with an emphasis on serving vulnerable and underserved populations, specifically in the states of Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho (WWAMI). The school is part of a network of programs working towards addressing and alleviating the shortage of quality physicians, by increasing the number of physicians and healthcare facilities in underserved regions. 

To this end, the school established the Office of Rural Programs to develop and implement training opportunities in the WWAMI region. Additionally, the school provides opportunities for training students in a wide array of medical care settings, ranging from community hospitals, urban and rural private practices, international health clinics to Indian Health Service Clinics.

UWSM is not exclusively concerned with physician shortages in rural areas; the school established CUSP (Community-focused Urban Scholars Program) to address the needs of vulnerable and underserved populations in urban areas

How to Get Into Medical Schools in Washington State

There is no cookie-cutter piece of advice that we can give to help you get into any of these schools. While these schools draw the brightest and most passionate, aspiring physicians, admissions committees these days tend to take a more holistic approach in evaluating applicants. Impressive numbers, such as 4.0 GPA or high MCAT scores, will not automatically get your foot in the door, even though you may make it through the first round of reviews.

The acceptance rates at PNWUHS and UWSM are 7% and 6%, respectively. The average applicant to these has a stellar academic record and high MCAT scores (see below). In order to stand out, it helps to highlight and show that you are an overall good fit for the school, detailing how your experiences and interests shaped your desire to enter the medical profession.

UWSM requires applicants to submit letters of recommendation, Casper test results, and, upon invitation, a secondary application that includes a 250-word essay in response to an open-ended prompt. After all of this, students must ace the interview. With the exception of the Casper test, PNWUHS posts similar requirements for the application process.

Floyd College of Medicine is the least competitive of the three schools. Nevertheless, the college looks for various attributes and experiences in its applicants, in addition to the materials that we listed for UWSM and PNWUHS.

PreMed Experience in Washington

You’re likely coming straight out of undergrad and have a PreMed curriculum under your belt. If you are invited to submit a secondary/supplemental application and, subsequently, an interview, you need to be able to speak at length about experiences you had outside of the classroom that prepared you for the real deal.

It is a good idea to take a look at summer internships. The Savvy Pre-Med blog very handily curated a list of top pre-med internship programs, organized by region, so it is a great place to start. However, the list is not exhaustive, and you may opt to apply for internships that are closer to your school. We recommend speaking to a pre-med or pre-health academic advisor at your school; they will be able to steer you in the right direction and help you navigate on and off-campus opportunities and resources.

In addition to internships, you may want to see if there are any on campus and local opportunities available, such as a voluntary ambulance service or student-run organizations.

If you are looking at Washington state med schools, you should consider volunteering and internship opportunities that are focused on helping underserved and underprivileged communities.

MCAT and GPA Scores

Admission into these schools is very competitive. It is certainly crucial to put a significant amount of effort into other aspects of the application, you cannot neglect your academic record and MCAT scores. Since these schools are inundated with applications each year, a strong academic record and high MCAT scores will boost your chances of making it through the first round of application reviews.

While PNWU does not have a minimum GPA or MCAT requirement, it helps to keep in mind that the average GPA for the most recently admitted class was 3.4 and the average MCAT score 503. For UWSM, the average GPA was 3.68 and the average MCAT score was 5.20.

In order to qualify for the secondary application, Floyd College of Medicine requires applicants to meet certain GPA/MCAT score combination requirements. Applicants with an overall GPA of 3.8 or higher, for example, must have MCAT scores on the 27th percentile rank or higher. Lower GPA scores must be accompanied by higher percentile ranks. Given that admissions into Floyd is somewhat selective, most applicants have an above-average GPA of 3.59 or higher and an average MCAT score of 506 or higher.

These numbers are not meant to deter anyone whose academic record and MCAT scores are not the most exemplary. However, these three Washington state schools are high-caliber and tend to attract high-achieving applicants. If your numbers are less than stellar, you should definitely put a lot of effort into developing the other aspects of your application.