Medicine and Society Curriculum
As you know, becoming a doctor requires much more than gaining suturing skill and honing our diagnostic ability. As healers, we must confront challenges that have little to do with the trauma, illness, or disease we treat. Social issues and tough ethical situations can present barriers to providing the most effective care for our patients.
This curriculum offers perspectives for patient-centered, effective health care, with a special eye on ensuring proper care for traditionally disenfranchised groups. The materials address the medical needs of the homeless population; offer advice on recognizing and effectively treating victims of domestic abuse; examine the prevalence of unnecessary surgical procedures; discuss issues in care for patients with HIV and AIDS; and ask students to confront their own attitudes, beliefs, and values.
There are no hard and fast rules in dealing with the most difficult social issues in medicine. But we do our patients a disservice if we ignore the outside forces that shape health care today. This applies not just to allocation of and access to hospital services, but also to the way patients from various backgrounds and situations are treated once they enter the emergency department, examination room, or operating suite.
The challenge for us as physicians, then, is to consider the underlying social issues that affect patient care and to overcome our own misunderstandings, discomfort, or uncertainty in order to become the most effective advocate for those in our care.