August 1, 2014

Social Justice in Medical Education: Strengths and Challenges of a Student-Driven Social Justice Curriculum

Adrian Jacques H. Ambrose MD; January M. Andaya MS; Seiji Yamada MD, MPH; and Gregory G. Maskarinec PhD


In the current rapidly evolving healthcare environment of the United States, social justice programs in pre-medical and medical education are needed to cultivate socially conscious and health professionals inclined to interdisciplinary collaborations. To address ongoing healthcare inequalities, medical educa- tion must help medical students to become physicians skilled not only in the biomedical management of diseases but also in identifying and addressing social and structural determinants of the patients’ daily lives. Using a longitu- dinal Problem-Based Learning (PBL) methodology, the medical students and faculty advisers at the University of Hawai‘i John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) developed the Social Justice Curriculum Program (SJCP) to supple- ment the biomedical curriculum. The SCJP consists of three components: (1) active self-directed learning and didactics, (2) implementation and action, and (3) self-reflection and personal growth. The purpose of introducing a student-driven SJ curriculum is to expose the students to various components of SJ in health and medicine and maximize engagement by using their own inputs for content and design. It is our hope that the SCJP will serve as a logistics and research-oriented model for future student-driven SJ programs that respond to global health inequalities by cultivating skills and interest in leadership and community service.

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