1) To pilot a health disparities curriculum for incoming first year medical students and evaluate changes in knowledge. 2) To help students become aware of personal biases regarding racial and ethnic minorities. 3) To inspire students to commit to serving indigent populations.
First year students participated in a 5-day elective course held before orientation week. The course used the curricular goals that had been developed by the Society of General Internal Medicine Health Disparities Task Force. Thirty-two faculty members from multiple institutions and different disciplinary backgrounds taught the course. Teaching modalities included didactic lectures, small group discussions, off-site expeditions to local free clinics, community hospitals and clinics, and student-led poster session workshops. The course was evaluated by pre-post surveys.
Sixty-four students (60% of matriculating class) participated. Survey response rates were 97–100%. Students’ factual knowledge (76 to 89%, p<.0009) about health disparities and abilities to address disparities issues improved after the course. This curriculum received the highest rating of any course at the medical school (overall mean 4.9, 1 = poor, 5 = excellent).
This innovative course provided students an opportunity for learning and exploration of a comprehensive curriculum on health disparities at a critical formative time.
KEY WORDS: health disparities, curriculum, education, medical students, underserved