With 135 schools of medicine, each unlike any other, the American system for medical education is among the largest and best in the world. Faced with a wide range of diverse options, the aspiring medical student and physician could well ask: What are the defining differences of Georgetown University School of Medicine? If I choose to attend, will I be able to achieve my personal and professional goals here?

Georgetown’s location in the nation’s capital — an international crossroads, home of the renowned National Institutes of Health, and one of the world’s most culturally exciting cities — certainly makes it unique. More distinguishing, however, is Georgetown’s philosophy. The School of Medicine is heir to the long and rich Catholic and Jesuit tradition of caring for the sick. From its inception Georgetown has been committed to the pursuit of knowledge in service of the community. The Georgetown medical experience is centered in cura personalis — care for the psychological, spiritual, social as well as physical well-being of the person. It lays the groundwork for the intellectual and ethical formation of physician-healers committed to the clinically competent care and well-being of their patients and dedicated to the health needs of the underserved in our society. This philosophy finds expression in research and in scholarship, in science and service, as well as in the dialogue of faith and technology.

Georgetown’s tradition of excellence in clinical education is perpetuated not only through the diversity of the patient populations that medical students encounter but also through their early exposure to clinical care. Georgetown’s curriculum includes systems based/multidisciplinary instruction in the basic sciences, early introduction to clinical / ambulatory care, a wide range of electives, and time for independent study. Teaching methods such as lectures with labs, small group instruction, and self-directed learning challenge students to learn core biomedical science in the context of patient problems drawn from the bedside and the clinic.

The Service and Justice in Health Care curriculum provides an ethos of service and advocacy, stimulates a sense of community, and encourages a capacity for leadership among students that is directed towards the care of the most vulnerable, disenfranchised, and underserved in our society. These Jesuit core values of commitment to service and social justice shape the educational curriculum and prepare students to be change agents and architects of a more equitable, fair and empowering health care system and society. Service-based and advocacy experiences as diverse as volunteer opportunities with various organizations throughout the DC metro area, to the Health Rights course with students participating in research projects concerning advocacy, health policy, and social justice, to summer internships with local and national non-profit organizations are required in the first and second year.

The programs for biomedical research not only enrich the whole educational environment but also provide medical students with opportunities to investigate as well as to learn. By graduation students are required to complete an independent research project on a topic of interest to them. Guided by a mentor, they may select topics as varied as medicine and law, medicine and business, medicine and ethics, or specific personal interests. They also have the opportunity to pursue professional degrees in science, business and ethics.

Georgetown’s concern for the spiritual and ethical dimensions of medical practice contributes to its distinctiveness and finds expression in an integrated, longitudinal ethical and cultural competency course. This course combines exposure to the ethical dimensions of medical care as well as the religious and cultural traditions associated with it. In addition, the course not only addresses the major ethical dilemmas encountered in clinical practice but also aims to promote the reflective exercise of moral agency and the acquisition of moral reasoning skills.

Finally, the uniqueness of Georgetown’s School of Medicine resides in the tangible sense of the philosophy played out in the basic science and the clinical experience creating a community of scholars and healers who are challenged to achieve their personal potential; dedicated to healing the individual patient; committed to serving the health care needs of the community; and to advocating for those who have no voice in our society. Challenge, choice and community are Georgetown’s defining differences.