On the 2nd and 3rd of July, the new Student Advisory Board (SAB) held its first annual retreat in New York City. Our goals were threefold: ensure a smooth transition for the new board members, create a cohesive picture of our plans for the following year, and have a little bonding time as a group. While each of us share a very similar vision, we also have our own unique perspectives on PHR. Over the next year, the SAB will be blogging about their thoughts and experiences.
Health and human rights education (HHRE) is my number one priority for the Physicians for Human Rights National Student Program. I firmly believe that HHRE is essential to a quality medical school education and for the continued development of our health care system – both nationally and internationally. Without a clear understanding of human rights and how human rights violations impact individual and group health, the failures in the health care systems around the world will persist.
At the national level, we will provide as much support as possible for local chapters that are working to implement HHRE. This includes increased communication between interested chapter leaders, the development of resources, model curricula, and Toolkits online. A group of students, who have already implemented some form of HHRE at their schools are available to you as HHRE Mentors who can offer information and ideas. If you are interested in any of these, please don’t hesitate to contact Hope O’Brien with the National Student Program and she can put you in touch with the correct people.
At the University of Kansas Medical Center where I attend, the student chapter is working to gather the information and allies we need to attempt to introduce HHRE as a formal part of the curriculum. We operate under a modular, systems-based curriculum and our chapter hopes to integrate at least one lecture on a human rights issue into each module. Ideally, these lectures will be related to the module being discussed. For example, the curriculum of a sexuality and reproduction module would benefit from a lecture discussing the historic and continued oppression of women and the lasting health impacts that this has had. Most of our modules (GI/Nutrition, Infectious Disease, Foundations of Medicine, etc.) offer fantastic opportunities to discuss human rights issues.
We are currently struggling with content for the lectures as well as a cohesive vision for the larger goals of the curricular change. To address this, we have opened our discussion up to other students and physicians across the US to find out what are the most important parts of an HHR curriculum and what is the best framework to present it in. I am happy to say that a number of colleagues, in and out of PHR, are assisting us with this. We have also identified a number of faculty allies, but feel like we have not found a champion to take the mantle when we head into curricular discussions. I am confident that we will be able to get investment from a physician by the time we have a more cohesive, complete vision.
I know that this will be a long process, both here in Kansas and nationally, but I think it is a battle worth fighting. It always excites me when I hear about what other schools are doing and have done. I would love to hear from some of you about what you are doing, planning, or dreaming of.
Chair, PHR Student Advisory Board
(Cross-posted from the Midwest Regional Hub.)