Integrating collaborative population health projects into a medical student curriculum at Stanford

Acad Med. 2008 Apr;83(4):338-44. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e318166a11b.


The authors describe the population health curriculum at the Stanford University School of Medicine from 2003 to 2007 that includes a requirement for first-year medical students to engage in community-based population health projects. The new curriculum in population health comprises classroom and experiential teaching methods. Population health projects, a key component of the curriculum, are described and classified by topic and topic area (e.g., health education; health services) and the intended outcome of the intervention (e.g., establishing new policies; advocacy). During the past four years, 344 students have entered the curriculum and have participated in 68 population health projects. The projects were determined both by students' interests and community needs, and they represented diverse topics: 51% of the 68 projects addressed topics in the area of disease prevention and health promotion; 28% addressed health care access; 15% addressed health services; 4% addressed emergency preparedness; and 1% addressed ethical issues in health. Each project had one of three targets for intervention: community capacity building, establishing policies and engaging in advocacy, and bringing about change or improvement in an aspect of the health care system. Projects represented diverse stages in the evolution of a community-campus partnership, from needs assessment to planning, implementation, and evaluation of project outcomes. Experience to date shows that classroom-based sessions and experiential learning in the area of population health can be successfully integrated in a medical school curriculum. When contextualized in a population health curriculum, population health projects can provide future physicians with an experiential counterpart to their classroom learning.

MeSH terms

  • California
  • Community Health Services / organization & administration
  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Curriculum*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / organization & administration*
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Public Health / education*
  • Schools, Medical
  • Students, Medical*
  • Teaching