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Perspect Med Educ. 2018 Jan 26. doi: 10.1007/s40037-017-0397-2. [Epub ahead of print]

Community action research track: Community-based participatory research and service-learning experiences for medical students.

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Community Health Section, Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Dallas, TX, USA.
Department of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Texas Southwestern School of Health Professions, Dallas, TX, USA.
Community Health Section, Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Dallas, TX, USA.


Community-based participatory research (CBPR) and service-learning are unique experiential approaches designed to train medical students how to provide individualized patient care from a population perspective. Medical schools in the US are required to provide support for service-learning and community projects. Despite this requirement, few medical schools offer structured service-learning. We developed the Community Action Research Track (CART) to integrate population medicine, health promotion/disease prevention and the social determinants of health into the medical school curriculum through CBPR and service-learning experiences. This article provides an overview of CART and reports the program impact based on students' participation, preliminary evaluations and accomplishments. CART is an optional 4‑year service-learning experience for medical students interested in community health. The curriculum includes a coordinated longitudinal program of electives, community service-learning and lecture-based instruction. From 2009-2015, 146 CART students participated. Interests in public health (93%), community service (73%), primary care (73%), CBPR (60%) and community medicine (60%) were the top reasons for enrolment. Significant improvements in mean knowledge were found when measuring the principles of CBPR, levels of prevention, determining health literacy and patient communication strategies (all p's < 0.05). Most students (73%) were satisfied with CART. Projects were disseminated by at least 65 posters and four oral presentations at local, national and international professional meetings. Six manuscripts were published in peer-reviewed journals. CART is an innovative curriculum for training future physicians to be community-responsive physicians. CART can be replicated by other medical schools interested in offering a longitudinal CBPR and service-learning track in an urban metropolitan setting.


Community-based participatory research; Curriculum; Family medicine; Medical education; Medical school; Postgraduate; Service-learning; Underserved

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