West Virginia Medical Journal - 2021 - Quarter 1 - Page 34


Raising Awareness about Health Disparities with a Medical and Dental School Web-Based Collaboration
Shelia S . Price DDS , EdD Associate Dean , School of Dentistry West Virginia University School of Dentistry Morgantown , WV 26506 sprice @ hsc . wvu . edu ( 304 ) 293-6646
Linda S . Nield , MD Associate Dean for Admissions Professor of Pediatrics and Medical Education West Virginia University School of Medicine Morgantown , WV 26506 lnield @ hsc . wvu . edu 304-293-1439
Christa L . Lilly , PhD Associate Professor , School of Public Health Department of Biostatistics West Virginia School of Public Health cllilly @ hsc . wvu . edu 304-293-6515
Manuel C . Vallejo MD , DMD Designated Institutional Official Associate Dean for Graduate Medical Education Professor of Medical Education , Anesthesiology and Obstetrics / Gynecology West Virginia University School of Medicine mcvallejo @ hsc . wvu . edu 304-293-0672
Health disparities among certain populations in the United States ( US ) are a persistent and ubiquitous problem . The Institute of Medicine defines disparities as “ racial or ethnic differences in the quality of healthcare that are not due to access-related factors or clinical needs , preferences , and appropriateness of intervention .” 1 The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a piercing spotlight on the nation ’ s health disparities , and patients in certain racial and ethnic minority populations , along with the elderly and those in poverty , disproportionately shoulder the burden of the disease . 2 Social determinants of health , including structural racism , are factors that must be understood and addressed by currently practicing health care providers and future dentists and
INTRODUCTION A collaborative web-based learning event for beginning medical and dental students was created to raise awareness about health disparities .
METHODS Incoming medical and dental students completed an online assignment based upon real patient scenarios which addressed the following six topics : religion , sexual preference , socio - economic status , race , culture , and military veteran status . Students completed identical pre- and post- questionnaires approved by the West Virginia University Institutional Review Board . Questions were ranked on a 6-point Likert scale ( 1 = strongly disagree to 6 = strongly agree ) or 5-point frequency scale ( 1 = never to 5 = always ). Data were analyzed using the Mann-Whitney test , with p < 0.05 as significant .
physicians . The health professions literature abounds with information linking the cultural awareness of health providers to health outcomes of their patients . 3 Integrating cultural awareness topics in the dental and medical school curricula is an essential step in training culturally proficient health care providers to help reduce health disparities that disproportionately burden certain populations . Interprofessional collaborations are a means by which these topics can be introduced and woven throughout the professional schools ’ curricula .
The pre- and post-questionnaires were completed by 45 dental students ( 94 % response rate ) and 118 ( pre- ) and 116 ( post- ) medical students with 98 % and 97 % respective response rates . Both dental and medical students had a significant increase in their awareness of health disparities . Dental students had a significant increase in their appreciation of the frequency of health disparities in state and country , while medical students had a significant increase in their agreement that learning events about diversity and inclusion should be threaded throughout the curriculum , and disparities are influenced by the quality of interpersonal health care .
CONCLUSIONS Bringing attention to diverse patient populations in a web-based format as part of new student orientation is effective in introducing and enhancing medical and dental students ’ awareness of health disparities and underscoring the essentiality of diversity topics in the curriculum .
The incorporation of interprofessional learning events into the curricula of health professional school is a relatively recent phenomenon . 4 Numerous topics have been reported to be addressed in an interprofessional setting including but not limited to ethics , 5 health conditions such as diabetes mellitus , 6 errors in health care , 7 patient safety , 8 and the care of specialized populations such as sexual and gender minorities . 9 In the year 2000 , Flores et al reported that cultural topics were primarily taught as part of other courses at 87 % of US medical schools , and in stand-alone or elective courses at 8 % and 16 % of schools , respectively . 10 Furthermore , most US medical schools utilized a case-based approach to teaching cultural issues . 10 Case-based scenarios are particularly conducive to teaching about professionalism and ethics . 4 Time constraints are a major barrier to the implementation of interprofessional didactics in academic health centers that have an affiliated dental school . 4 , 11 Geography may also pose another barrier 12 as dental and medical students and other health professional students work in separate clinical spaces . A strategy to overcome the time and geographical constraints is the use of web-based didactics . On-line learning allows for flexibility in the time and location of didactic activities . 8 Although web-based didactics have been
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