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20 January 2006

UCSF to Integrate Social and Behavioral Sciences in Medical Education

UCSF’s School of Medicine has received a five-year, $1.25 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to exclusively revise and integrate the social and behavioral sciences in undergraduate medical education.

The NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research coordinated the curriculum development award in response to a recent Institute of Medicine report titled “Improving Medical Education: Enhancing the Behavioral and Social Science Content of Medical School Curricula.” This is the first time this award has been given.

The report detailed the impact of increasing patient diversity on medical practice, the growth of science on mind-body medicine, the dramatic shift in medical delivery models and health policies, and the increasingly important need for changes in training and practice to support physician well-being. The report acknowledges that most medical schools include some training in their curricula, with the substantial need for improvement.

“Social and behavioral sciences in medical education have been under emphasized and in some areas ignored,” says principal investigator, Jason M. Satterfield PhD, director of behavioral medicine and associate professor of clinical medicine at UCSF. “There’s no question that our students need to learn about the most recent advances in biomedical sciences, but with social and behavioral factors accounting for more than 50 percent of premature morbidity and mortality, it has become clear that we have to include more social and behavioral science education.”

With the launch of the new medical school curriculum in 2001, UCSF moved to the forefront of including the social and behavioral sciences in the first and second years of medical training, Satterfield points out.

“We hope to improve those curricular gains by continuing social and behavioral science training into the third and fourth years,” he adds.

Satterfield will lead a core team of 12 faculty representing five departments and three UCSF campus sites. UCSF schools of nursing, dentistry and pharmacy will be represented. Shelley Adler, PhD, Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine, and Nancy Adler, PhD, professor of psychiatry and director of the Center for Health and Community, will serve as co-principal investigators.

Holistic Direction

The team of investigators will develop innovative curricular content and assessment tools in each of six areas, with a special focus on the third and fourth years; however, the grant is also intended to support the professional development of medical students interested in the social and behavioral aspects of medicine.

“All medical schools teach some social and behavioral sciences, but it is often isolated in a separate course,” says Nancy Adler. “Our approach integrates this knowledge with biological science and clinical application. The NIH grant will allow us to maximize this integration in the didactic core of the curriculum and extend it to clinical training.”

The six content areas covered in the grant are mind-body medicine, patient behavior, doctor-patient communication, the physician’s role in society, social/cultural factors in health, and health policy and economics.

“The impact of social inequalities in health care and the social factors that are determinants of the health outcomes present new challenges and opportunities for physicians,” says Shelley Adler. “Future medical students will require enhanced skills to communicate and negotiate health management with diverse populations.”

“By supporting the next generation of medical leaders and medical educators, we hope to shift the culture of medicine in a more humanistic and holistic direction,” Satterfield says.

Stephanie Levin
, UCSF News Services


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