A New Approach to Urban Health Education

Big city hospitals aren’t necessarily the best place for medical students to learn about urban health issues.

“Even though you may think that you’re getting a population of patients who are urban and underserved, often times what you really are getting are people who do have access to health care and do have access to prevention,” says Clint Snyder, PhD, director of the new Urban Health Pathway program and professor of family medicine and community health at the School of Medicine.

Medical students in the pilot program spend their clinical rotations in neighborhood health clinics, homeless shelters and other settings to better understand the roots of city health problems—and prevention possibilities.

When the pathway was first offered last fall, four first-year students were selected from the 20 who applied. Four more entered in August 2012.

Mary Ellen Lyon, one of the first students, was interested in the program because she knows she wants to focus her medical practice on underserved communities and appreciates the opportunity that the pathway presents in addressing some of the uncomfortable questions around health care practice. “I’m learning the implications of racial, cultural and socioeconomic differences between health care provider and patient, and how to bridge that divide,” she said.