Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 23, Issue 7, pp 1028–1032 | Cite as

Innovative Health Care Disparities Curriculum for Incoming Medical Students

  • Monica B. VelaEmail author
  • Karen E. Kim
  • Hui Tang
  • Marshall H. Chin
Innovations in Education



1) To pilot a health disparities curriculum for incoming first year medical students and evaluate changes in knowledge. 2) To help students become aware of personal biases regarding racial and ethnic minorities. 3) To inspire students to commit to serving indigent populations.


First year students participated in a 5-day elective course held before orientation week. The course used the curricular goals that had been developed by the Society of General Internal Medicine Health Disparities Task Force. Thirty-two faculty members from multiple institutions and different disciplinary backgrounds taught the course. Teaching modalities included didactic lectures, small group discussions, off-site expeditions to local free clinics, community hospitals and clinics, and student-led poster session workshops. The course was evaluated by pre-post surveys.


Sixty-four students (60% of matriculating class) participated. Survey response rates were 97–100%. Students’ factual knowledge (76 to 89%, p < .0009) about health disparities and abilities to address disparities issues improved after the course. This curriculum received the highest rating of any course at the medical school (overall mean 4.9, 1 = poor, 5 = excellent).


This innovative course provided students an opportunity for learning and exploration of a comprehensive curriculum on health disparities at a critical formative time.


health disparities curriculum education medical students underserved 



This study was supported by the Department of Medicine, University of Chicago, the Office of Medical Education at the Pritzker School of Medicine, University of Chicago, and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Diabetes Research and Training Center (P60 DK20595). Dr. Chin is supported by a Midcareer Investigator Award in Patient-oriented Research from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (K24 DK071933).

This paper was presented in part at the 2007 Society of General Internal Medicine Annual Meeting, Toronto, Ontario, and the 2007 Association of American Medical Colleges Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C.

The authors would like to thank Dean Holly Humphrey and the staff at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine for their generosity and active support in accommodating this course into the medical school curriculum. We would like to thank Dr. Joe G.N. Garcia, Chairman of Medicine at the University of Chicago for his mentorship, leadership, and support in the development and implementation of this course. This course would not have been successful without the passionate and inspiring lecturers who devoted hours of their time and shared their personal histories with our students.

Conflict of Interest

None disclosed.


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Monica B. Vela
    • 1
    Email author
  • Karen E. Kim
    • 2
  • Hui Tang
    • 3
  • Marshall H. Chin
    • 1
  1. 1.Section of General Internal Medicine, Department of MedicineUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Section of Gastroenterology, Department of MedicineUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  3. 3.Center for Health and the Social SciencesUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA

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