Health Justice Scholar Track
“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Health Justice Scholar Track empowers student physicians to be advocates for justice through a longitudinal program that integrates instruction in human rights and social determinants of health, opportunities for mentorship, and applied advocacy experiences through direct lobbying and research projects; all within a community of like-minded peers working towards the elimination of health disparities.
Empower the next generation of physicians to be advocates for health justice.
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:
- one out of five residents lives at or below the poverty level
- the child poverty rate is 30.4%.
- the prevalence of HIV/AIDS is over ten times the national average.
The main determinants of health and health inequities: poverty, lack of education, unequal distribution of resources are socioeconomic and political in nature. Addressing these complex issues requires aspiring physicians to have the knowledge, skills and empathy that extends beyond clinical competency to social justice.
Located in our nation’s capital, the Health Justice Scholar (HJS) Track at Georgetown University School of Medicine seeks to address these disparities by offering a unique hands-on learning opportunity for medical students to engage with the local community. The HJS Track is grounded in Cura Personalis, Latin for “care for the whole person;” one of the many Catholic, Jesuit values that Georgetown University upholds in order to offer its students a unique educational experience. This value suggests individualized attention to the needs of the other, distinct respect for his or her unique circumstances and concerns and an appropriate appreciation for his or her particular gifts and insights. Cura Personalis deeply influences the Georgetown medical experience and is intertwined with the mission of Georgetown University to educate women and men “to be responsible and active participants in civic life and to live generously in service to others.” Students participating in the track learn about health care as a right and health justice as an advocacy objective within the framework of an open and civil society and in the context of their roles as health providers. Through theoretical and experiential learning, students gain the knowledge and skills necessary to be “voices for the voiceless.” By providing service to the greater community, Georgetown medical students go beyond their roles as student physicians to serve others in a broader context.
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 shape their professional identity. 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 Health Justice Scholar Track is to further this development by creating physicians who are compassionate providers and skilled advocates for health justice. Students completing all requirements will 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.
The HJS curriculum has four components:
- Faculty mentorship
- Advocacy Elective
- Justice Project
By participating in the components, HJS Track students are expected to be able to do the following:
- 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.
- Demonstrate the nuances and mechanics of effective issue advocacy on behalf of their patients and communities through theoretical and experiential learning.
- Complete an advocacy research project through mentorship and guidance from health justice advocates that culminates in a final report and public release of findings.
- Develop an understanding through experience of how sustained advocacy can impact health determinants (political, financial, social, cultural) and subsequent health.
- Implement plans for correcting health injustices in future clinical practice.
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.
Eileen Moore, M.D.