Interprofessional Medical–Legal Education of Medical Students: Assessing the Benefits for Addressing Social Determinants of Health

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Abstract

Problem

Screening tools exist to help identify patient issues related to social determinants of health (SDH), but solutions to many of these problems remain elusive to health care providers as they require legal solutions. Interprofessional medical–legal education is essential to optimizing health care delivery.

Approach

In 2011, the authors implemented a four-session didactic interprofessional curriculum on medical–legal practice for third-year medical students at Morehouse School of Medicine. This program, also attended by law students, focused on interprofessional collaboration to address client/patient SDH issues and health-harming legal needs. In 2011–2014, the medical students participated in pre- and postintervention surveys designed to determine their awareness of SDH’s impact on health as well as their attitudes toward screening for SDH issues and incorporating resources, including a legal resource, to address them. Mean ratings were compared between pre- and postintervention respondent cohorts using independent-sample t tests.

Outcomes

Of the 222 medical students who participated in the program, 102 (46%) completed the preintervention survey and 100 (45%) completed the postintervention survey. Postintervention survey results indicated that students self-reported an increased likelihood to screen patients for SDH issues and an increased likelihood to refer patients to a legal resource (P < .001).

Next Steps

Incorporating interprofessional medical–legal education into undergraduate medical education may result in an increased likelihood to screen patients for SDH and to refer patients with legal needs to a legal resource. In the future, an additional evaluation to assess the curriculum’s long-term impact will be administered prior to graduation.

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