Health Justice Scholar Track

“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable . . . Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

Our Mission

To provide future physicians with key knowledge needed to practice medicine through a health justice and racial equity lens. Taking a distinctly inter-professional approach to the practice of medicine, participants collaborate with legal and policy advocates and learn how to use law and policy as tools to improve individual health and wellbeing, transform the systems used to deliver healthcare, and advance broader population health and equity goals.

Our Vision

Empower the next generation of physicians to be advocates for health justice for their patients, within the healthcare system, and on behalf of their communities.

Our Purpose

The disproportionate need and uneven access to health care in the United States and, in particular, the Washington, DC metro area represents one of the great paradoxes of our nation where extremes in wealth and prosperity are juxtaposed with abject poverty and need.

Some sobering facts about Washington, DC:

  • 1 in 5 residents lives at or below the poverty level
  • Almost 40% of Black children live in poverty
  • The infant mortality rate in Black infants is 4 times higher than White infants
  • The prevalence of HIV/AIDS is over 10 times the national average

The main determinants of health and health inequities: poverty, lack of education, unequal distribution of resources, inadequate housing, and other essentials of everyday life that are socioeconomic and political in nature. Addressing these complex issues requires aspiring physicians to have knowledge, skills and empathy beyond what is needed to achieve clinical competency.

The Health Justice Scholar (HJS) Track at the Georgetown University School of Medicine offers a unique longitudinal learning experience for medical students who have a passion for social justice and health advocacy. The HJS Track is grounded in Cura Personalis, Latin for “care for the whole person;” one of the many Jesuit values that Georgetown University upholds as part of its unique medical educational experience. This value embraces individualized attention to the needs of others, distinct respect for the unique circumstances and concerns of all, and an appropriate appreciation for their gifts and insights so that students graduate ready “to be responsible and active participants in civic life and to live generously in service to others.”

Established in 2008, the HJS Track recognizes that physicians alone cannot guarantee overall health and well-being for patients. Embracing an expansive and multi-disciplinary approach to healthcare, the HJS Track empowers students with the understanding and tools they need to address the social, legal, racial, economic, and other structural barriers to health they will encounter throughout their professional lives. Through theoretical and experiential learning, HJS Track students learn about health justice as an advocacy objective and how to address social determinants of health at the individual, systems, and population levels. The HJS Track’s affiliation with the Georgetown University Health Justice Alliance, a robust academic medical-legal partnership between Georgetown’s Medical and Law Centers, contributes to mentorship, applied advocacy experiences, research, and unique inter-professional experiences for Track students all within a community of like-minded peers working towards the elimination of health disparities.    

Medical students encounter many formative experiences throughout their four years of study– ones that will introduce them to new ideas and concepts, deeply challenging and emboldening their values, and further shaping their professional identities. No great practitioner becomes great without continual reflection on how the experiences, knowledge, and people they encounter affect their identity, values, and practice. The goal of the HJS Track is to further this development by creating physicians who are compassionate providers and skilled advocates for health justice. Students who complete all requirements receive special distinction at graduation as Health Justice Scholars. Scholars graduate with the knowledge and skills that empower them to embody the dual roles of clinician and patient advocate in their future careers as physicians.

Enrollment: Up to 12 students

Our Curriculum Overview

  1. First-Year Foundational Health Justice Seminars
  2. Second-Year Capitol Hill Day Program
  3. Annual Participation in Health Justice Week
  4. Fourth-Year Advocacy Elective
  5. Final Health Justice Project/Presentation


By the completion of this scholarly track, students will be able to:

  • Describe universal concepts of health rights and health justice within the framework of a civil society* and in the context of their roles as health providers.
  •  Evaluate how laws and policies can create or remove barriers to health and well-being for historically and intentionally marginalized communities. 
  • Explain how “health-harming legal needs” (i.e. unmet civil legal needs like unsafe or unstable housing, employment discrimination, inadequate health insurance, food insecurity, etc.) affect patient health and can be addressed through the medical-legal partnership model.
  • Demonstrate foundational understanding of the nuances and mechanics of effective advocacy and how to engage in direct legislative advocacy. 
  • Develop an understanding through experience of how sustained advocacy can impact health determinants (political, financial, social, and cultural) and subsequent health.
  • Design and produce or contribute to interdisciplinary health justice research/publications. 
  • Formulate and implement action plans for correcting specific health injustices in current and future clinical practice.
  • Participate in the medical legal partnership model with an applied understanding of the benefits of inter-professional collaboration.

Participation in this track contributes to some of the core competencies required for graduation from Georgetown University School of Medicine including the ability to:

  • Demonstrate intellectual curiosity and a commitment to learning, critically evaluate new knowledge and determine its relevance to the clinical problems of individual patients.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the psychological, socioeconomic, cultural, and spiritual dimensions of human health and illness.
  • Effectively communicate with patients, their family members and caregivers and encourage them to engage in their own care, with sensitivity to patient diversity, community health influences and values.
  • Demonstrate altruism through a commitment of service to the profession and society and advocate for all, especially the vulnerable and disenfranchised.

Contact Information

Faculty & Staff