Doctors Serving People: Restoring Humanism to Medicine through Student Community Service

By Edward J. Eckenfels | Go to book overview

Chapter 1
The Emergence of the Rush Community
Service Initiatives Program

The only lost cause is one we give
up on before we enter the
struggle
.

—Václav Havel, “The Measure of the
New Man”

I think we learn … that the call of
service is a call towards others—heart,
mind, and soul—but also a call to oneself
.

—Robert Coles, The Call of Service: A
Witness to Idealism

Medical education does not exist to provide students with a way
of making money, but to insure the health of the community
.

—Paul Farmer, in Tracy Kidder, Mountains beyond Mountains


Community Health: The Course

The impetus for launching the Rush Community Service Initiatives Program came from a first-year course in community health I taught in the late 1980s. The primary aim of the course was simply to get the students outside the walls of the academic health center and into the vast cultural diversity of Chicago’s neighborhoods and communities. The course was a logistical nightmare. Since the majority of transportation to and from the various sites was by car, and students lived all over the city (a large number in the hip North Side neighborhoods), the scheduling for both the students and the sites willing to accept them was mind-boggling.

When I proposed this course, I was met with mute but evident signs of annoyance; many students saw it as an interference with valuable study time needed to cram for the quarterly basic-science exams. From the medical college administration, the feeling was trepidation that “going into the community” might result in some serious (read: legal) problems. This attitude persisted for quite a while. But since no one was actually willing to stop the course, I stubbornly forged ahead.

-12-

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