Medical school serves poor communities in new program
Published: Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 01:10
The Tufts University School of Medicine this year kicked off the Service Scholars Pathway Program, which aims to teach medical students how to provide appropriate care to underserved communities.
The program’s inaugural class of 10 students will complete a curriculum that focuses on communities that have been historically bereft of proper medical attention, according to program Co-director Keith Nokes.
The School of Medicine initiated the Service Scholars Pathway Program in order to rectify issues of physician distribution, which are present even in affluent parts of the United States, Nokes said.
By encouraging more medical students to devote their services to impoverished areas, Nokes hopes that the program will increase feelings of altruism often lost in the school’s competitive and stressful atmosphere. The 10 students selected for the program are all motivated by a sense of selflessness, he said.
“They all want to serve people who need care,” Nokes said.
The Service Scholars Pathway Program will emphasize areas such as mental health and dentistry and will provide services to the local community, according to Co-director Suzanne Mitchell.
“Most of [students’] experiences will be in the local Boston area,” she said.
Each of the 10 students will be paired with a mentor to develop a strong and enriching relationship throughout their four years of medical school, Nokes said, adding that the mentors all have experience in providing medical care to underserved communities.
He believes that having a mentor that shares the students’ interests and professional goals will be extremely beneficial.
“We all talk about having a moment [of realizing] that people around us share ... our mission,” Nokes said.
In addition to gaining experience under the guidance of a mentor, students will participate in monthly seminars covering aspects of medicine essential to providing medical care in impoverished areas, according to Nokes. Each student will also practice medicine in underserved communities during a competency based Apprenticeship in Primary Care (CAP), which all Tufts medical students must undertake.
At the end of four years of medical training, the Pathway Scholars will work on a final project in the same community they worked in as part of CAP.
Although the Service Scholars Pathway Program is new to Tufts, other schools — such as the University of California, San Francisco and the University of Washington — offer similar experiences, Mitchell said.
She hopes that the program will expand to include more students, begin sending students to rural underserved areas like northern Maine and make a broad impact on the medical school curriculum at Tufts.
Mitchell expressed enthusiasm that the School of Medicine is making an effort to serve an urgent national need.
“Tufts is acting very responsively to what we are seeing in our nation,” she said.