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New Initiative Sparks Collaboration between Internal Medicine Residents, Community Members

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The Department of Internal Medicine is hoping a new program will help residents better understand the unique challenges African Americans face in accessing health care. Beginning in March 2018, each internal medicine resident attended two 90-minute, small group sessions.

“Through general discussion with the residents, we started to realize that they didn’t know a lot about the local African American population and the health and health care disparities that they experience,” explains Internal Medicine’s Vice Chair for Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement David Steward, MD, who piloted the program. About a fifth of Springfield’s population is African American, according to the most recent US Census data.

In the first session, group leaders shared local health statistics, highlighted local and national health disparities, and led a discussion about implicit bias.

The second session gave learners an opportunity to hear directly from local African Americans. Steward invited three community members to share their insights and work with residents to find meaningful solutions. Residents also worked with these community members to generate ways the department and its residents could be more engaged with the local African-American community.

“The session made me think and take a step back to check myself and ask if I’m making decisions based on implicit bias,” one resident shared. Another resident wrote, “I think we should collect these concerns from the community and compile a list to figure out what we can do to change them.”

“Our residents had a lot of suggestions for how we could engage our entire community more effectively,” says Steward. Steward and his colleagues are using the residents and community members’ feedback to develop the next steps for past session participants as well as future learners. 

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