Community Medicine Elective Course: FAM2103


Students should contact Cathy Day to coordinate arrangements for this course at least eight weeks in advance of the rotation period. This course is not open to visiting students.

Course Goals

To provide students with practice-oriented and/or service-oriented learning opportunities related to community medicine. Students will learn about the types and functions of the formal and informal medical, public health, and social support programs involved in community health care. The course is designed to be individualized to students’ specific population-medicine interests, and can be tailored to experiences in local, state, national, or international health care settings and agencies.

Course Objectives

  • Teach students the biopsychosocial approach to medical care and how the approach is applied in the determinants of health model.
  • Focus on health promotion and disease prevention (HPDP) in the community-based setting and as applied to populations of patients.
  • Demonstrate the importance of the physical environment, the social environment, and access to care in determining the health of populations.
  • Enhance students’ understanding of the relationship between culture and health, and improve their skills in delivering culturally sensitive health care services.
  • Expose students to the social, financial, and ethical aspects of limiting and promoting access to health care for vulnerable populations.

Methods of Instruction


In a one-on-one instructional setting, the subject context is clinical preventive medicine, with a primary focus on the prevention and early detection of diseases. An effort is made to emphasize community health, and the role of the community in contributing to the health of individuals. Other important concepts include evidence-based practice, population-based medicine, and community-oriented primary care (COPC). The student will rotate through training experiences, for example, that go beyond clinical medicine and encompass environmental, public health, and multidisciplinary efforts to improve the health status of groups of individuals.

Special emphasis is placed on participating in service-learning opportunities. Service learning refers to a structured learning experience that combines community-oriented service with explicit learning objectives, preparation, and reflection. Students are expected, therefore, to provide direct community-focused service, learn about the context in which the service is provided, and understand the connection between the service and their academic coursework.


The student will be assigned or will select a supervising preceptor at the appropriate facility and may work directly with a range of public health, social service, allied health and/or medical care specialists.

Student Responsibilities

The elective can be tailored to enable the student to pursue special interests in community medicine such as epidemiologic methods, health system evaluation, health policy, and regulation of public health service entities. Specific experiences are agreed upon with the course director in advance, although revisions and/or additions to the elective can also be discussed at any time during the rotation. The student is accountable to both the on-site preceptor(s) and the course coordinator(s).

Students will complete and submit at the end of the rotation a written project, report, journal, pictorial essay, or presentation, documenting and describing their clinical community-based experiences, and how the experiences are relevant to the population health perspective and community medicine. The report will be submitted to the course director at the completion of the rotation. Students will also be given the opportunity of discussing and presenting their work to a meeting of interested faculty, residents, and students, to be arranged by the course director.

Method of Evaluation

A written evaluation report of the preceptorship experience is required of both the student and preceptor(s) before a grade is assigned. The reports consist of a quantitative component using evaluation scales, and a brief qualitative component asking for an assessment of the community medicine experience. The preceptor(s) evaluation will address the student’s professional contribution to the project and understanding of community medicine. The student’s report will address the project’s experiential components, and the relevant connections between the project and the student’s academic coursework.

Policy on Absences and Involvement Hours

It is the policy of UT Southwestern Medical School that unexcused absences are not allowed. Requests for an excused absence are considered on an individual basis by the course director. Unapproved absences will result in a failing grade for the course unless suitably compensated with an equivalent number of days at a later time. Students should expect to participate in activities related to this course a minimum of 30 hours per week.