Dell Medical School at UT adds focus on health equity to curriculum

Beginning next year, Dell Medical School students will have a greater focus on health equity in their studies.

The medical school at the University of Texas is adding an eighth focus of study, which it calls a core competency, to the curriculum. It joins the other core competencies: leadership and innovation; patient care; medical knowledge; communication; practiced-based learning and improvement; systems-based practice; and professionalism. 

Under the health equity core competency, students will learn about the historical context of discrimination, how to recognize structural and social determinations of health, and structures of oppression within medicine. They also will learn how to identify their own biases and privileges; how to build relationships with a diverse group of people; and how to work with community-based partnerships. They will be taught how to advocate for inclusion and intervene when they see barriers, discrimination, biases and microaggressions.

Dell Medical School's Health Learning Building is reflected in the glass of the main entrance to the Dell Seton Medical Center. The first Dell Medical School class had some health equity instruction woven into the curriculum. The class that will start this year will have a full focus on health equity as one of the school's core competencies.

Dr. Beth Nelson, associate dean of undergraduate medical education, said the school began looking at how to teach health equity when it opened in 2016, with a milestone in 2018 when it hired an associate dean of health equity. 

Some of the health equity content was already in existing courses, but after the spring of 2020, when social justice issues were at the forefront and COVID-19 illustrated the disparities of health outcomes among people of color, the school began to think about how it could better teach health equity, Nelson said.

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