The Urban Service Track is a two-year “add-on” program that runs concurrently to the main curriculum within the 6 participating schools and provides its Urban Health Scholars with enhanced learning opportunities. The UST curriculum focuses on the following 11 competencies:
- Cultural and Linguistic Differences
- Interprofessional Teamwork and Leadership
- Professional and Ethical Conduct
- Community Resources
- Multiple Constituencies
- Resource Constraints
- Population Health
- Quality Improvement and Patient Safety
- Health Policy
- Health Care Financing and Management
Mastery of the competencies is accomplished via community-based outreach and patient care, advocacy, and research activities as described above as well as active participation at quarterly learning retreats.
Urban Health Scholars, participate in learning retreats held throughout the academic year at locations throughout Connecticut. At each learning retreat, students work in small interprofessional groups to solve clinical cases as they are introduced to different vulnerable patient populations, enhancing their knowledge and understanding of health care concerns and barriers specific to that population. Populations covered include: children and youth, the elderly, the homeless, immigrants and refugees, HIV positive patients, those with substance abuse history, and the incarcerated and ex-offenders. Additionally, a different clinical skill is emphasized at each learning retreat.
A unique component of the Urban Service Track is the strong connection with community partners such as community health centers, Hartford Department of Health, and primary care organizations. For example, the curricular competencies were those identified by clinicians working at federally-qualified community health centers as essential for success in their positions, instead of being dictated solely by UST faculty. Urban Health Scholars are mentored by both faculty and community-based practitioners and all learning retreats feature community clinicians, clients, and/or social service agency representatives.
“I really enjoy the learning retreats with our cohort; I get to meet new people, work in groups, and learn from other professions. Overall, it has been a great opportunity!”
“Without UST I may have never gotten to hear such personalized accounts of life as a senior, a veteran, or a person with HIV and get a glimpse into the life of some of my future patients. It was really an amazing experience.”
A major component of the curriculum focuses on student-engaged community outreach to a wide array of vulnerable populations. In between learning retreats, Urban Health Scholars apply the information learned to design, implement, or assist with a wide variety of health-related field activities. All field activities are community-based and are focused on:
- clinical care (e.g., hypertension and oral cancer screenings at health fairs)
- education (e.g., immunization awareness, nutrition education to seniors and children, smoking cessation education, community gardens, health careers awareness programs to K-16 students)
- advocacy (e.g., discussions with state legislators)
Second year Urban Health Scholars are expected to lead at least one community outreach project and participate in the Student Leadership Cabinet meetings. All community outreach field activities are led by one or more second-year Scholars. The Student Leadership Cabinet meetings are designed to discuss how to successfully organize and lead teams of students from multiple professions with different educational backgrounds and therapeutic skill levels, coordinate the efforts of faculty and community clinicians precepting each outreach session, and communicate with community partner organizations and team co-leads. Student Leadership Cabinet members also act as a liaison between the UST student body and the faculty, providing input and feedback about the overall UST curriculum.
Urban Health Scholars and faculty also provide direct patient care at free clinics. UST’s community outreach programs connect the 2 universities and 6 schools with a number of community partners in these endeavors, bringing much-needed services to Connecticut’s urban areas and vulnerable populations. UST Scholars and faculty provide community outreach to 4,000-5,000 of Connecticut’s neediest citizens each year.
Pharmacy-Specific UST Curriculum
In addition to completing the main UST curriculum and the PharmD curriculum, pharmacy Urban Health Scholars complete the pharmacy-specific UST curriculum. This curriculum consists of additional group meetings, design and implementation of pharmacy-led community outreach projects, and APPE requirements. The goals of the pharmacy UST curriculum are:
- To enable pharmacy students to understand the roles and contributions of pharmacists in primary care and with underserved patients
- To develop skills in drug therapy management and direct patient care as they apply to real-world practicalities when caring for underserved patients in outpatient settings,
- To develop effective communication and teamwork skills that enable effective collaboration with members of other health care professions.
“Urban Service Track is an excellent complement to my didactic year curriculum and I highly recommend it for anyone committed to working in Primary Care.”
UST activities clearly map to such Center for the Advancement of Pharmacy Education (CAPE) Educational Outcomes as patient and population-centered care, interprofessional collaboration, promotion of health and wellness, patient advocacy, cultural sensitivity, problem-solving, and leadership. Pharmacy Urban Health Scholars are expected to exhibit the “four P’s” of Pharmacy UST: Patient-centered, Professional, Proactive, and Personable.
“I can genuinely say that I have a strong interest in becoming an ambulatory care pharmacist and working in an underserved area. Regarding interprofessionalism, I liked how UST provided the opportunity for pharmacy students to learn and work with other health professions, but it also allowed us to advocate for the importance of the pharmacy profession.”