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Acad Med. 2010 Oct;85(10):1645-51. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181f08348.

Using service-learning to teach community health: the Morehouse School of Medicine Community Health Course.

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  • 1Department of Community Health and Preventive Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia 30310-1495, USA.


Medical education is evolving to include more community-based training opportunities. Most frequently, third- and fourth-year medical students have access to these opportunities. However, introducing community-based learning to medical students earlier in their training may provide a more formative experience that guides their perspectives as they enter clinical clerkships. Few known courses of this type exist for first-year medical students. Since 1998, the Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) has required first-year students to take a yearlong Community Health Course (CHC) that entails conducting a community health needs assessment and developing, implementing, and evaluating a community health promotion intervention. In teams, students conduct health needs assessments in the fall, and in the spring they develop interventions in response to the problems they identified through the needs assessments. At the end of each semester, students present their findings, outcomes, and policy recommendations at a session attended by other students, course faculty, and community stakeholders.The authors describe the course and offer data from the course's past 11 years. Data include the types of collaborating community sites, the community health issues addressed, and the interventions implemented and evaluated. The MSM CHC has provided students with an opportunity to obtain hands-on experience in collaborating with diverse communities to address community health. Students gain insight into how health promotion interventions and community partnerships can improve health disparities. The MSM CHC is a model that other medical schools across the country can use to train students.

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