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Office of Public Affairs

August 25, 2011

SIU Resident Physicians to Role-Play Lives of Low-Income Families

Southern Illinois University School of Medicine physician residents of the internal medicine department will get a glimpse of challenges of life in poverty by participating in a poverty simulation beginning at 9:30 a.m., Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2011, at Lincoln Land Community College’s Trutter Center, 5250 Shepherd Rd., Springfield.

“At SIU School of Medicine, our philosophy is to treat patients as people, not as a disease,” said Ross Silverman, J.D., professor and chair of the SIU Department of Medical Humanities, which is directing the simulation with the SIU Department of Internal Medicine. “Teaching our residents a greater awareness of the issues facing those living in poverty will help them understand how their patients’ community affects their health.”

Using the Community Action Poverty Simulation (CAPS) program kit provided by the Missouri Association for Community Action, 44 SIU internal medicine residents will role-play the lives of low-income families.  Each physician will be given a unique family situation, such as a single parent raising children or a senior citizen maintaining self-sufficiency on Social Security.  They will interact with community agencies and experience the daily stress of meeting basic needs such as food and shelter given a limited income amount. 

Low-income volunteers from Springfield Urban League, Habitat for Humanity of Sangamon County, and M.E.R.C.Y. Communities will role-play staff of the community agencies.

At the end of the simulation, the volunteers will discuss their experiences living in poverty, and the residents will discuss what they've learned. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 13.3 percent of the Sangamon County population lives below the poverty level.

“This simulation offers all of us a great opportunity to learn from community members who face stressful issues every day,” Silverman said.  “For example, some people have to choose between buying medication and putting food on the table.  The simulation will help physicians consider all factors in their patients’ lives and formulate reachable goals for their patients.”

Established in 1970, SIU School of Medicine’s mission is to assist the people of central and southern Illinois in meeting their health-care needs through education, patient care, research and service to the community.  Its website is and its main number is 217-545-8000.