Community-Engaged Learning: addressing gaps in medical education through a service learning curriculum
Medical student engagement within their community fosters physicians that are better equipped to meet the needs of their local residents. Service-learning is an approach to community engagement that offers students the chance to prepare, engage, and reflect on service work. Additionally, a service-learning project supplements medical curriculum with experiential social awareness regarding topics that may not otherwise be taught in the classroom. A required 20 hour (minimum) service-learning curriculum instituted at a small public medical school thus demonstrates an effective method of medical student engagement within their local community that bridges gaps in medical education curriculum. Specific local organizations were recruited, and medical students were assigned to engage in their service learning projects at these organizations. Over the course of a semester, students engaged in a project at their assigned institution, ultimately producing a deliverable to benefit their community far into the future. Students formally reflected on their experience, which demonstrated sentiments including strengthened community partnerships and enlightened perspectives on areas of social justice that are otherwise undertaught in medical curriculum. An unintended consequence of this curriculum also included additional research opportunities and academic writing opportunities for students in regard to their service-learning projects.
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