An interdisciplinary community diagnosis experience in an undergraduate medical curriculum: development at Ghent University

Acad Med. 2008 Jul;83(7):675-83. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31817829a6.


Since 2002, the medical curriculum at Ghent University has incorporated a community diagnosis exercise, teaming medical students with master of social work and social welfare studies students. The course focuses on the interaction between the individual and the community in matters of health and health care. During one week, small groups of students visit patients and their caregivers in six underserved urban neighborhoods, and they combine these experiences with public health data, to develop a community diagnosis. Local family physicians and social workers monitor sessions. The course requires students to design an intervention tackling one community health issue. At the end of the course, the students present their diagnoses and interventions to community workers and policy makers who provide feedback on the results. In the authors' experience, medical and social work students all value the joint learning experience. The occasional culture clash is an added value. The one-week course is very intensive for students, mentors, and cooperating organizations. Although students criticize time restraints, they feel that they reach the outlined objectives, and they rate the overall experience as very positive. The authors find that this interdisciplinary, community-oriented exercise allows students to appreciate health problems as they occur in society, giving them insight into the interaction of the local community with health and health care agencies. Combining public health data with experiences originating from a patient encounter mimics real-life primary care situations. This campus-community collaboration contributes to the social accountability of the university.

MeSH terms

  • Belgium
  • Community Health Services*
  • Curriculum*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate*
  • Hospitals, University*
  • Humans
  • Interdisciplinary Communication*
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Patient Care Team*
  • Program Development
  • Program Evaluation
  • Social Work / education*
  • Students, Medical
  • Surveys and Questionnaires