The Design of a Medical School Social Justice Curriculum

Well over 100 years have passed since Virchow wrote that “physicians are the natural attorneys of the poor, and social problems fall to a large extent within their jurisdiction.” Since that time, the world’s population has septupled, and billions of people are “trapped in the health conditions of” his era.


As a result, many medical students in the 21st century want to work to decrease health disparities, and increasing numbers of medical graduates indicate they intend to work with people who are often underserved. This groundswell of medical student interest in remedying health disparities joins urgent calls for the integration of specific social justice competencies into medical school curricula and aligns with new considerations and the ranking of the quality of institutions’ “social mission.”

Yet, how can medical students learn about global health and social justice without recapitulating the mistakes of their forebears? 

What skills do they need to be effective in social justice outreach abroad and at home? 

What are physician obligations toward "social justice" if any?

We take on these and additional questions in our new article in Academic Medicine, "The Design of a Medical School Social Justice Curriculum." 

Posted on August 30, 2013 .