The acquisition of skills to recognize and redress adverse social determinants of disease is an important component of undergraduate medical education. In this article, the authors justify and define “social justice curriculum” and then describe the medical school social justice curriculum designed by the multidisciplinary Social Justice Vertical Integration Group (SJVIG) at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. The SJVIG addressed five goals: (1) to define core competencies in social justice education, (2) to identify key topics that a social justice curriculum should cover, (3) to assess social justice curricula at other institutions, (4) to catalog institutionally affiliated community outreach sites at which teaching could be paired with hands-on service work, and (5) to provide examples of the integration of social justice teaching into the core (i.e., basic science) curriculum. The SJVIG felt a social justice curriculum should cover the scope of health disparities, reasons to address health disparities, and means of addressing these disparities. The group recommended competency-based student evaluations and advocated assessing the impact of medical students’ social justice work on communities. The group identified the use of class discussion of physicians’ obligation to participate in social justice work as an educational tool, and they emphasized the importance of a mandatory, longitudinal, immersive, mentored community outreach practicum. Faculty and administrators are implementing these changes as part of an overall curriculum redesign (2012–2015). A well-designed medical school social justice curriculum should improve student recognition and rectification of adverse social determinants of disease.
Ms. Coria is a medical student, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Lebanon, New Hampshire.
Mr. McKelvey is a medical student, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Lebanon, New Hampshire.
Mr. Charlton is a medical student, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Lebanon, New Hampshire.
Dr. Woodworth is a recent graduate, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Lebanon, New Hampshire, and internal medicine resident, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina.
Dr. Lahey is associate professor of medicine, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Lebanon, New Hampshire.
Acknowledgments: This manuscript benefits from the fascinating discussions of the Social Justice Vertical Integration Group at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. Thanks to Dr. Lee Witters for permitting mention of his revered biochemistry session on starvation, and to Dr. Joseph O’Donnell for mentorship and support.
Other disclosures: None.
Ethical approval: Not applicable.
Previous presentations: Presented at the Association of American Medical Colleges Northeast Group on Educational Affairs Annual Retreat, Boston, Massachusetts, March 23 to 25, 2012.
Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Lahey, One Medical Center Drive, Lebanon, NH 03756; telephone: (603) 650-6063; e-mail: Timothy.Lahey@Dartmouth.edu.