Special Theme: Medical Education in the Ambulatory Setting: IN PROGRESS—JULY 2002: SPECIAL FEATURE: COMMUNITIES AND MEDICINE
Objective: The purpose of the migrant health initiative is to give medical students the opportunity to provide clinical services, at appropriate levels of training, to a population that reflects a different ethnic and economic background than medical students typically see in the clinical setting. This initiative integrates concepts of cultural competency with experiential learning.
Description: The migrant health initiative provides an infrastructure for a cultural competency educational program in the first two years of medical school within an essentials of clinical medicine course (ECM). The ECM course emphasizes the impacts of family, society, and community on the delivery of patient health care. Experience in the provision of clinical care to migrant workers provides an exceptional opportunity to expose students to a medically underserved, diverse group of people and to provide care to persons with a different language. The program was developed from grass-roots initiatives of students and the region's Area Health Education Center (AHEC). Historically, migrant workers provide the majority of the labor for harvesting onions in southeast Georgia. In April 2000, the regional AHEC organized a one-day clinic for migrant workers, staffed by one local physician and allied health students. Care was provided to over 400 laborers. As a result of the response by the migrant workforce, the AHEC developed a partnership with the local community to expand the health care services to this underserved group. Five medical students, working with the school's associate dean for curriculum and local AHEC, had observed a migrant health clinic organized by the AHEC and were seeking ongoing community service opportunities. Based on the interest and enthusiasm of the students, a faculty-supervised migrant health elective was developed for first- and second-year students. The number of students who wanted to take the elective exceeded the available opportunities. The ECM course will be enhanced with an integrated and longitudinal curriculum that focuses on migrant health care; the revised ECM course will provide students with the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors to care for individuals from different cultures. First-year students will be able to volunteer to work in the program. Second-year students will participate in at least one migrant health clinic, traveling only three hours but providing a different world with medical care. In addition, the opportunities for medical students to participate in a community health initiative and to work with nursing and allied health students will enhance their public health knowledge and their team and leadership skills.
Discussion: The partnership between students, faculty, and the community provides the mechanism to thoughtfully develop and integrate cultural issues and experiences into the curriculum. Students have recently received a Caring for Community five-year grant from the Association of American Medical Colleges. Program expansions will continue into the third-year medicine clerkship and include a senior elective. The program expansions will result in a migrant health initiative that will be coordinated; comprehensive; and expand student knowledge, skills, and experiences in cultural health care.
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