UNLV School of Medicine – connecting to the community and the curriculum.
UNLV School of Medicine – connecting to the community and the curriculum.

William lives in a high-crime neighborhood. Julia doesn’t own a car and has few public transportation options. Michael lost his job two years ago and now is homeless. Ever since her husband died, Andrea, a retiree, has spent most of her time at home alone.

Are these health-related issues? While we think of crime, homelessness, housing, transportation, poverty, unemployment, and loneliness as social and economic issues, they all can affect your health. So much so that the UNLV School of Medicine is addressing these issues in its curriculum.

Connecting with the community will be an important part of school’s curriculum.

Dr. Ellen Cosgrove, vice dean for academic affairs and education, explained, “We want to educate physicians, and we want them to be well versed in the Las Vegas community. We want them to understand the people who live here, the hardships they face, and their social issues.

“Health care is not just about the body, it’s also about the social, economic, physical, and cultural environment of the person. We want our students to understand that when they see a patient to take these factors into consideration.”

The school’s approach also is aimed at turning the physicians into proud Nevadans. Currently, Nevada ranks 48th out of 50 states in doctor-to-patient ratio, with a lack of sufficient doctors in almost all medical specialties. Dr. Barbara Atkinson, founding dean, said, “We want our students to fall in love with our community so they will stay and complete their residency and eventually practice here.”

Connecting the students with the community begins immediately with a six-week course called Immersions EMT/Population Health. All students are required to become certified by the end of the course as emergency medical technicians (EMTs). After certification, students will participate in EMT calls, gaining first-hand knowledge of the medical and social issues in Las Vegas.

Other community-focused courses include:

Dr. Laura Culley, associate dean for health policy and community affairs, sees the need for students to connect with their communities as being increasingly important in the training of physicians. “We are entering a new phase of medicine, one in which we are taking medical care to communities that previously have not had it. Medicine more than ever will be a social responsibility and to be a good doctor in the coming decades you will need to be community-minded and community-focused.”

For more stories about UNLV School of Medicine visit unlv.edu/news.

Republished from UNLV School of Medicine News Center/Business & Community/June 10, 2016/By ED ORT

Photo: Courtesy of Vegas Roots. Community-based nonprofit Together We Can runs the Vegas Roots Community Garden, which grows food and teaches health, gardening, and nutrition classes to Southern Nevadans. It is one of 80 community agencies at which UNLV Medical School students will volunteer as part of their Nevada Community Service I course work.

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