UT Health San Antonio physician residents and fellows undergo novel social determinants of health training

The UT Health San Antonio Office for Graduate Medical Education, in collaboration with University Health and the promotores of San Antonio, held an immersive training experience that highlighted existing challenges to address health-related social determinants in the current health care ecosystem.

The training happened on June 29 and 30 as part of an overall strategy to create a more equitable health care environment, remove barriers and support our communities in South Texas to achieve their best overall health.

The two-day event took place at the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine on the campus of UT Health San Antonio and at the Westside Education & Training Center in southwest San Antonio.

UT Health San Antonio residents and fellows-in-training participated as patients navigating the complex and often fragmented connections between our health care and social services system. The goal was to highlight the need to address both social systems and clinical health.

The simulation served as an opportunity to help ignite conversations and encourage our residents and fellows-in-training to partner with their patients as they screen for and address social determinants of health.

“We were really excited to host the social determinants of health orientation. This was our third year providing this training and our first time in-person,” says Woodson Scott Jones, MD, the vice dean for the Office for Graduate Medical Education at the Long School of Medicine. “During the simulation, participants experienced a less integrated health system that does not recognize social determinants or how they impacted the health care of our patients.”

During their training, residents and fellows-in-training worked with the promotores of San Antonio, state-certified community health workers, who serve as bridges of trust between clinicians and the patients they care about.

“We wanted to focus on caring and reminding the new residents and fellows that what they have in their hearts is what matters,” says Carolina Schlenker, MD, MPH, assistant professor/clinical in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the Long School of Medicine. “And even if their patient is too sick or too poor, they will know the doctor cares.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines social determinants of health as “conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship and age that affects a wide range of health, functioning and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.” Social determinants of health can be grouped into five domains — health care access and quality economic stability, neighborhood and built environment, education access and quality, social and community context.

“It is critical for the residents and fellows-in-training to recognize, while they are training, the impact of social determinants of health and to ask that additional question of what might be impacting their patient’s compliance,” Dr. Jones said. “To understand how to help our patients make it through the barriers to getting the health care they need—both in training and after—will make a difference in their patients’ lives.”

For more information about social determinants of health, watch this video.

To learn more about the social determinants of health training at UT Health San Antonio, click here.

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