Who Are We?
Established in 2015, the Social Medicine Consortium (SMC) is a collective of committed individuals, universities and organizations fighting for health equity through education, training, service and advocacy, with social medicine at its core. Recognizing that the perspectives of many are systematically excluded from dialogue and decisions, and convinced that we are all more effective when a wide variety of voices are included, we actively seek diverse geographic, professional, racial, and class perspectives in our consortium.
Co-founders Michelle Morse, MD, MPH and Michael Westerhaus, MD, MA together identified a critical gap in health professional training. Drs. Morse and Westerhaus each lead non-profits dedicated to strengthening health systems globally and saw an opportunity to build a global coalition in this essential work.
What is SMC's Vision?
SMC's aim to drive a global transformation in health professional education that deepens engagement with social medicine as a core component of training so that health professionals emerge better prepared to partner with patients and communities, identify and respond to the social determinants of health, and advance health equity.
What is Social Medicine?
Social Medicine is the practice of medicine that integrates:
1. Understanding and applying the social determinants of health, social epidemiology, and social science approaches to patient care;
2. An advocacy and equity agenda that treats health as a human right;
3. An approach that is both interdisciplinary and multi-sectoral across the health system;
4. Deep understanding of local and global contexts ensuring that the local context informs and leads the global movement, and vice versa (learning and borrowing from distant neighbors);
5. Voice and vote of patient, families, and communities.
What is the context for the founding of the Social Medicine Consortium?
Social and economic factors have an incredible impact on the health of patients worldwide, with an approximated 80% of societal health outcomes directly tied to the social determinants of health (University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, 2016). Health professionals are regularly exposed to these socioeconomic forces, but have extremely limited knowledge of and experience with how to effectively respond, due in large part to an absence of routine training on the social determinants of health in health profession training and continuing education. There has been little consensus on how to meaningfully implement such training, and limited evaluation of currently existing models.
The Social Medicine Consortium aims to address this significant gap by bringing together a cadre of thought leaders from across the health professions, paying particular attention to the voices that are often excluded from these conversations. The Social Medicine Symposium serves as a platform for participants to learn from and interact with leaders in the domains of social medicine, global health, and social justice, creating a unique opportunity for engaged conversation on deepening the integration of social medicine into health profession education. The goal of the April 30th conference was to facilitate healthcare providers, educators, students, community organizations, and members of the public to learn about the transformational power of a social medicine approach to health professional education and its potential impact on the health of the broader community.
Photo by Peek Ehlinger