Student-Run Health Clinic: Novel Arena to Educate Medical Students on Systems-Based Practice

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Abstract

In recent decades, the United States has experienced substantial growth in the number of student-run clinics for the indigent. Today, over 49 medical schools across the country operate over 110 student-run outreach clinics that provide primary care services to the poor and uninsured. Despite this development, little research has been published on the educational value of such student-led endeavors. Although much has been surmised, no general methodology for categorizing the learning experience in these clinics has been established. This article represents the first literature review of the novel method of educating students through the operation of a clinic for the underserved. It highlights the student-run clinic as a unique enhancement of medical education that may supplant current curricular arenas in teaching students about systems-based practice principles such as cost containment and financing, resource allocation, interdisciplinary collaboration, patient advocacy, and monitoring and delivery of quality care. The novelty of the student-run clinic is that students place themselves at the forefront of problem solving and system navigation to effectively care for severely disadvantaged populations. This article underscores the student-run clinic as a potentially ideal experiential learning method for preparing young physicians to confront a US healthcare system currently facing crises in cost, quality of care, and high rates of uninsurance. The article stresses the need for outcomes research on the long-term effectiveness of the student-run clinic experience in affecting medical student practice behaviors and attitudes in patient care settings that extend beyond the student-run clinic. Mt Sinai J Med 76:344–356, 2009. © 2008 Mount Sinai School of Medicine

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