OU Medical Students In Tulsa Learn About Poverty

Tuesday, July 28th 2009, 5:14 pm
By: News On 6

By Dan Bewley and Scott Thompson, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Medical students at OU-Tulsa are hoping a new look at an old problem makes them better doctors and nurses. It's day two of the school's summer institute.  The students spent the day simulating life below the poverty line.  The goal is to show how life's everyday problems can impact a person's health.

The students are learning to take care of patients while stepping out of their comfort zone.

"All of us are trying to appreciate what our patients, who come from low income families, go through," said Summer Institute Co-Director Dr. Daniel Duffy.

There are 150, first-year medical students at the OU School of Community Medicine who are simulating poverty in an effort to become better doctors.

Edmond native Chad Knight is a physician in training and admits that as he was growing up, his family had all that it needed.  He expects the week-long summer institute to give him a deeper perspective about issues in society that impact a person's health.

"I think understanding the poverty, understanding the issues, understanding missing doctors' appointments because that's a big issue to a lot of patients in that demographic.  They won't show up for visits and to understand how hard it is to travel with bus passes and having kids and all these different errands," said Chad Knight.

Dr. Daniel Duffy is the summer institute's co-director and also took part in the simulation.  He says it's important for those training in the medical field to be aware of everything going on in a patient's life.

"We're saying that the health of an individual patient depends on the environment that they live in, the community they live in, the social structure they're living in," said Summer Institute Co-Director Dr. Daniel Duffy.

It may only be for a day, but these would-be doctors say this experience will stay with them for a lifetime.

All of the students volunteers to take part in the summer institute.  Anyone who decides to practice in what's considered under-served areas can qualify for a tuition scholarship at OU.