Medical Science Educator

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 381–387 | Cite as

From Classroom to Community: the Impact of a Non-Clinical Clerkship on Fourth-Year Medical Students’ Ability to Address Social Determinants of Health

  • Ashley Wennerstrom
  • Jennifer W. Gibson
  • N. Kevin Krane
Original Research



The AAMC has called for research exploring causes of health disparities and the value of educating health care providers about population health. Research on best practices for educating medical students about social determinants of health is limited.


During academic year 2015–2016, we implemented a required 4-week community health clerkship for all fourth-year medical students at Tulane University not concurrently seeking an MPH. The 15-h classroom component of the course included discussion of reading materials and didactic instruction on social determinants of health, principles of prevention, health disparities, racism, cultural humility, and community health workers’ (CHWs) roles in improving population health. Students also spent 80 h at a community agency doing non-clinical work. In addition to course evaluations, students completed pre-and post-course surveys that included 15 items measuring knowledge and attitudes about patient care and community health on a 4-point Likert scale. Post-course surveys also contained ten open-ended questions.


Students were highly satisfied with the course. There were significant changes in 11 of 15 items related to knowledge and attitudes about patient care and community health. Students reported better understanding of chronic disease causes, physicians’ roles in health promotion, and the roles of CHWs. Students expressed intent to improve their communication skills, address health literacy, contextualize care based on social circumstances, and respond to patients’ cultural health beliefs.


This required 4-week course resulted in significant changes in fourth-year students’ attitudes and knowledge of community health principles.


This course may be a model for other institutions.


Social determinants of health Community health Medical education Cultural humility Population health Health disparities 



This work was supported, in part, by the Harry Seneca Charitable Trust. The authors wish to thank Puja Cuddapah and Leigh-Ann Sallis for coordinating the course this paper describes and Meredith Sugarman for providing helpful edits to the paper.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants in the study.


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Copyright information

© International Association of Medical Science Educators 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Tulane University School of MedicineNew OrleansUSA

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