Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
MD Education

Focused Clinical Experiences


The mission of the Focused Clinical Experience (FCE) is to give context and relevance to classroom learning by introducing students to authentic clinical settings and scenarios, creating the need to know. These experiences, which have clearly defined learning objectives, coincide with current topics about organ systems in the Science in Medicine curriculum, making the approach to basic science topics more comprehensive. FCEs also provide early exposure to the various clinical disciplines, helping students explore their career choices in medicine.


  • Expose students in M1 and M2 (Phase 1/the first 20 months of training) to authentic patient-care environments and clinical scenarios for better contextual learning
  • Inspire early learners, stimulate inquiry, encourage deeper understanding of the material, maintain enthusiasm
  • Provide authentic examples of why students need to understand the basic science
  • Allow students to find a unique experience relevant to their area of interest through a menu of FCE options for each organ system 

A FCE is meant to expose the early learner to clinical manifestations of disease through a focused history, clinical exam and related investigations. These experiences, developed by faculty volunteers, provide students with access to a variety of clinicians and patients with differing conditions. An example of one student's experience included spending an afternoon in the echocardiography laboratory, observing and learning from the technicians and patients undergoing imaging studies and taking part in the cardiologist’s review of those studies. According to post-exposure questionnaires, FCEs helped to identify students’ knowledge gaps, clarify confusing concepts and increase interest in clinical medicine.

Each experience directly corresponds to one or more lectures as part of the medical student’s study of organ systems, with each varying in content and structure. Students may be responsible for required reading before the site visit so they have a grasp of the appropriate background information. There will be a number of experiences available for each organ system, with students being expected to register and attend a specific number, but not every available FCE.

Learn more about teaching opportunities in this area.

Faculty Leader and Coordinator

Jyothy Puthumana, MD
Associate Professor

Allison Deneen
Senior Program Coordinator