A good physician must learn to treat the patient, not just the injury.
This is the message more than 160 first-year medical students received Wednesday for the University Medical School’s Cultural Dynamics in Health Care program in Minneapolis’ Phillips Neighborhood.
In the past few years the school has worked to emphasize diversity within the curriculum. Last year’s incoming medical students believed the amount of attention devoted to community diversity to be insufficient.
Alex Cho, a second-year medical student, created the two-day program with help from faculty members and Phillips Neighborhood Community leaders.
Cho is one of more than 30 second-year medical students who volunteered time to serve as program facilitators.
“It is historic in that a lot of the program came not solely from the medical school, but from community advocates who are equal and leading partners in the endeavor,” Cho said.
The day began with a morning bus tour of the neighborhood. Community leaders discussed issues concerning the vast array of cultures and ethnicities within the enclave.
“These people encounter major issues just living,” noted program participant Duane Belongie, reflecting on the area’s soup kitchens.
Belongie, an admitted pessimist, said he might have come if the program wasn’t required, but he found the interaction between students and community members irreplaceable in the classroom.
“We are working to create a permanent partnership with the Phillips Community,” said Shea Peeples, an administrative assistant in the Medical School Curriculum Affairs Office.
The program offers students a different kind of education; one that teaches students about people and life, Shea said.
After the bus tour, students moved into small groups at various locations around the neighborhood.
Student groups each met with a Phillips community member for a role-playing exercise. The students acted as physicians and diagnosed conditions the community members had by asking the residents questions.
The exercise challenged students to deal with patients from diverse cultures, a practice many had never encountered.
They are not treating a condition; they are treating people, Peeples said.
Following the diagnostic analysis, groups wrote mission statements for themselves. The statement reflected each group’s perceptions of what makes a good physician.
To complete the program, students and community members gathered at Andersen School for a cultural feast.
Young boys from the community chanted and beat traditional Native American drums before the dinner. Community members delivered Native American and African-American blessings. Participants dined on traditional Somali, Latin American, Native American, Asian-American and African-American cuisine.