A recent U.S. News & World Report article, “How Medical Schools Try to Help Doctors Understand Patients in Poverty,” discusses medical school programs designed to help students understand health issues of poverty and develop their empathy. One such example is the Washington University School of Medicine, which takes students out of the classroom and into the least affluent communities in St. Louis. During the visits, students interact with patients and staff of local nonprofit organizations and community health centers, and engage in observation and discussion about challenges faced by those living in poverty. Students of The Ohio State University College of Medicine also engage in at least 60 hours of community service, often working with community health centers to help those most in need.
Yet another example presented is McGovern Medical School’s use of the Community Action Poverty Simulation, which was conducted with students during the summer. Rebecca Lunstroth, JD, MA, leads this innovative program—now in its second year—which engages students and faculty in a role-playing exercise, in which students deal with common struggles of poverty, such as not having enough money for medications or rent. Lunstroth discussed briefly preliminary findings of a post-simulation survey conducted recently, noting that students reported experiencing “a statistically significant increase in sadness [about causes and effects of poverty] and empathy.”