Public Health and Social Jusitce

Public Health and Social Justice Training Program (Vision)

Vision for an Health Care Activist Training Program

Due in part to the schism between the fields of medicine and public health at the beginning of the 20th Century, modern medical training underemphasizes the social, economic, environmental, and cultural contributors to health and illness, also known as the social determinants of health. Because of our privileged positions in society, physicians share a responsibility to oppose, individually and collectively, those forces which contribute to the spread of poverty, inequality, racism, human rights abuses, injustice, and environmental destruction.

My long-term vision is to develop a to develop an annual, week-long colloquium/training for medical students and residents interested in obtaining the information, skills, and professional contacts to help them become social justice advocates and leaders. The program would be highly competitive, and participants would attend for two consecutive years. Experts and leaders from academia and local and national organizations would impart basic knowledge surrounding major progressive social justice issues (e.g., human rights, single payer health care, environmental preservation, reproductive rights, food safety, gun violence, war and militarism, race and health, tobacco control, the criminal justice system, the obesity epidemic, HIV/AIDS, international health, etc.). There would be training in how to write op-eds, lobby legislators, interact with the media, become involved with community groups, etc. Participant/fellows would design and complete a project, under the guidance of a mentor, and present the results of the project the following year. They would receive academic elective credit from their home institutions. Mentors would assist in helping trainees publish and publicize their projects, many of which could continue beyond the fellows involvement in the program.

There are already many well-known, highly effective organizations which offer such training, both informally and formally, to a few students and residents (e.g., Physicians for Social Responsibility, Physicians for a National Health Program, Physicians for Human Rights, Partners in Health, Public Citizen’s Health Research Group’s Research-Based Health Activism Courses, and many others), but no formal ┬áprogram in which progressive health care professionals join together to provide the comprehensive education and training that the proposed colloquium envisions. Many individuals have already expressed an interest in helping to plan the colloquium and serve as program faculty and mentors. Those wishing to consider becoming involved, please contact me.

The envisioned program will be a costly undertaking. To bring this idea to fruition will require substantial funding, none of which can come from corporate sources. Financial resources will be necessary to support the involvement of mentors, to pay administrative staff, and to provide funding for trainees, who given their career stages and (usually) heavy debt, will require full support. I am not a fund raiser and have not yet set up a non-profit corporation to handle any potential donors to such a program, be they individuals or foundations. My time is stretched thin between managing the website (including updating slide shows every 6-12 months) and my clinical responsibilities. Nonetheless, if this idea seems attractive to an individual or group who might consider helping to fund this undertaking, please contact me.