Public Health and Social Medicine: A Focus on Disparities

Course Description

The LACE public health core curriculum titled ‘Public Health and Social Medicine: A Focus on Disparities’ is vital to exposing our students to a variety of foundational health care topics with a focus on community engagement integrated throughout. Topics include health policy, social determinants of health, ethics, health care systems, medical humanities, and preventive medicine. When linked to the annual LACE Practice Improvement Projects, this core component of the medical school curriculum equips our future physicians and biomedical scientists to understand public health and improve the health of the community.

Course Contact

Brandon Brown - Curriculum Director
Department of Social Medicine and Population Health

Tracy Bereal - Educational Instruction
(address iLearn questions to Tracy)

Learning Objectives

PCRS Mapped objectives: 1.7, 1.9, 2.5, 3.8, 3.9, 4.1, 4.2, 4.6, 5.3, 5.5, 5.6, 6.3, 6.5, 7.2, 7.3, 8.8
By the end of this series students will:

  1. Understand the core interdisciplinary approaches to understanding and ameliorating health disparities.
  2. Analyze how community values and health are present in the clinic and shapes patient's physical health and their communication with physicians.
  3. Reflect on and evaluate these complex encounters.
  4. Communicate effectively with patients, families, and the public, as appropriate, across a broad range of socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds.

Each segment of the series will have additional learning objectives.

Any readings will be distributed via iLearn prior to lecture.

Optional Readings for additional information

  1. Milestones in Public Health (available online).
    Description: Accomplishments in public health in the past 100 years.
  2. Briggs, Charles L. (2003) Stories in the Time of Cholera: Racial Profiling during a Medical Nightmare
    Description: Ethnography by an anthropologist and public health physician on the 1990s cholera outbreak
  3. Atul Gewande. (2002) Complications : A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science.
    Description: Written by surgeon Atul Gewande, this book examines the power and limitations of medicine.
  4. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.
    Description: Non-fiction book about Henrietta Lacks and the development of the HeLa cell line.
  5. Racism: Science & Tools for the Public Health Professional by Chandra Ford.
    Description: Racial health equity

Grading and Expectations

To pass this course, students will be expected to:

  1. Attend all 20 lectures across the two years (mandatory). Students seen using technology (computers, phones, etc.) for outside activities during class will not receive attendance credit;
  2. Complete the readings prior to each lecture and be prepared to discuss how it relates to your clinical practice (Readings will be on iLearn);
  3. Participation in the interactive group activities;
  4. Complete two writing assignments. Submit them on iLearn at the end of year 1 (before May 25) and year 2 (before April 2) which ties in the lecture and lab topics to your practice improvement projects. An additional description is below;
  5. Submit a health disparities blog entry (during year 1) on iLearn AND at one of the following links (or another that you identify) which publish med student writings:
  6. Adhere to the student conduct policy in the student handbook, including respecting presenters and classmates. Those who do not adhere to these standards will receive a professionalism write up.

Final Writing Assignment

At the end of Years 1 and 2, you will write a 2-3 page double spaced essay (one inch margins 12 point font) that illustrates how course material (lectures, readings, discussions) have informed your clinical or biomedical encounters. For this assignment, your task is to think about your clinical encounters with patients, staff members, peers, and care provider at your LACE sites and consider how knowledge learned throughout the year has played into and informed your clinical encounters and experiences. To successfully complete this task you will need to critically engage with course material, especially the required readings, to analyze and interpret how themes presented throughout the year have played out in your clinical encounters and your interpretation of those experiences.

For instance, in Year 1 you may consider how access to healthcare through the Affordable Care Act influenced your experience treating economically disadvantaged patients. In Year 2 you may reflect on patients’ illness narratives reflecting on how socio-cultural backgrounds, values, and knowledge of structural competency influenced your interactions with diverse patients. These are merely examples to help think through the purpose of the essay. These assignments (onr each year of the course) will be graded as pass/fail. To obtain a passing grade you must adhere to the following requirements:

  • Refer to at least one lecture theme in your essay. However, you can refer to as many relevant themes as you like. Year 1 lecture themes include: health disparities and determinants of health, ethics in public health and medicine, healthcare systems, and social determinants of health. Year 2 lecture themes include: medical humanities and preventative medicine.
  • Cite and include in the reference list at least four readings

When writing your essay, please provide headings to organize your paper and format in-text citations (e.g. Brown, 2012) and include a full reference list at the end. References do not count towards the page requirement. No title page is required but if you use one, it will not count towards the page limit.