Social Justice is an Important Component of Medical Education

Last month, a former Dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine penned an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, “Take Two Aspirin and Call Me by My Pronouns,” arguing that medical school curricula should not include topics related to “social justice” at the expense of “basic scientific knowledge.”

Hundreds of alumni of Penn Medicine signed an open letter in response, published in Medscape Pharmacists, objecting to this former Dean’s limited view of the scope of medicine. Their response and the resulting conversation reflects a powerful testament to why a School of Medicine and Public Health is so important and necessary.

UW-Madison’s own Dean of the School of Medicine and Public Health, Robert N. Golden, MD, commented:

Dean GoldenThe University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health fully supports the perspective, recently advanced by many in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania community, that medical education must include the important areas related to “social justice”. The health of people and populations is determined by social, behavioral, environmental, and biological forces.

The topics that were recently identified in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, including health policy, population health, health disparities, cultural diversity, bias, climate change, gun violence, and transgender health, are critically important elements in modern health professional education and training.  It is essential that those involved in caring for patients possess a full understanding of both the social and biological aspects of health and illness. Health educators therefore have an obligation to provide these elements in our medical and health professions curricula.

The UW Collaborative Center for Health Equity and the UW Institute for Clinical and Translational Research share Dean Golden’s sentiments and we recognize and appreciate being able to operate in a setting that recognizes the value of social determinants in health and wellness.