Indiana University School of Medicine has received $12 million in grant funding to improve its curriculum with a focus on underserved communities. The grant is from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration.
“We qualified to apply for this grant, because it's forecasted Indiana will be in the bottom eight states in terms of gap for primary care providers in the year 2025,” Dr. Bradley Allen, associate dean at IU School of Medicine, said.
“This grant is intended to allow us to grow the focus on providing primary care to underserved communities in our state.”
The forecast on the shortfall of primary care providers comes from a report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Other states that are projected to have the biggest shortfalls include Alabama, Kentucky, Arkansas, Ohio, Missouri, Mississippi and New Jersey.
This primary care physician shortage will leave many in rural communities as well as racial minorities in urban areas with limited access to essential care.
IU School of Medicine will use the grant money to bridge the projected gap by focusing on medical student training and retention of future primary care physicians across the state.
The school will purchase more telemedicine equipment to further train students on how to best utilize the technology. Allen said he expects that telemedicine is here to stay — even after the pandemic — and the school wants to capitalize on the practice by equipping future doctors with the necessary skills.
“So the use of the technologies — either point of care, ultrasound or telemedicine — allow us to provide more effective care for populations where there may not be very many clinics or very many doctors,” Allen said.
Another way IU School of Medicine plans to utilize the grant is by training its teaching staff and tailoring the curriculum with a focus on racial health equity.
“An intentional focus on ‘what is the effect of systemic racism on health care?’ And how does that affect the care of our Black communities in the state of Indiana?” Allen said. “So really trying to teach our students an appreciation of what has led to what we've seen play out.”
Many Black and Brown IU School of Medicine students in the past years have talked about a sense of isolation and even discrimination. That is due, in part, to the fact that Black students are underrepresented in medical school and in part because the curriculum does not provide the necessary historical context around why certain health disparities exist. Allen says the school plans to utilize the grant to work on these issues.
Normally, medical schools evaluate students based on specific competencies before graduation. These competencies include things like professionalism, interpersonal communication, scientific and clinical inquiry. Allen said IU school of Medicine also plans to add health equity, diversity and inclusion as one of the competencies in student evaluation.
“Medical students are very energetic and looking for opportunities to be involved in their communities,” he said.
“So being able to teach them some of this content on their way through medical school, [so that] they'd able to put it into practice, you know, immediately, for instance, helping out with some of the recent assistance with our new refugee population from Afghanistan, to help out with the State Department of Health and Marion County, to provide vaccinations and initial health care for those populations that are now living within the Indianapolis area.”