MSM Faculty and Students Address the Social Determinants of Health in a Year-Long Community Health Course

To meet the growing needs of communities with increased chronic conditions, decreased healthcare access, and changing sociocultural environments, there is a critical need for community-oriented physicians equipped with the skills to attend to the health of underserved populations.

The Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) Community Health Course’s (CHC) purpose is to develop community-oriented physicians with the empathy and tools needed to care for diverse populations that address the social determinants of health to achieve health equity.

community health course students

  • Students are organized into 9 groups and are assigned to community organizations that serve urban youth, seniors, and homeless persons in settings that include elementary schools, afterschool programs, senior residential facilities, and a homeless shelter for women and children.
  • These organizations partner with MSM students to complete a community needs and assets assessments in the fall semester and to develop, implement, and evaluate interventions in the spring semester. 

The CHC has provided tangible benefits to its students and partners and has informed the overall curriculum of MSM by assisting partner sites in addressing short- and long-term needs in their respective communities and by serving as a model for other MSM pre-medical, graduate, and graduate medical education programs. 

community health course students standing in the middle of a street

Over the last few years, MSM students worked with the residents at the Adamsville Green Senior Living providing prevention services. While taking care of residents’ bodies, students learned that the seniors were concerned about the unsafe crosswalk in front of their building. After hearing the residents’ concerns, these future doctors went above and beyond their duties and took action and reached out to local politicians to see what could be done. In the winter of 2018, a safer crosswalk was installed and residents at the senior housing are overjoyed and thankful for the students’ commitment to the community.

Watch the video from CBS46's Vince Sims to learn how the students got it done and to see the senior citizens’ response.

A structured curriculum and longstanding collaborations between academic institutions and community-based organizations can create community-oriented physicians, sustainable improvements in the community, and achieve health equity.