Concentration in Advocacy and Activism

Concentration in Advocacy and Activism

Concentration Directors

Esther Entin, MD
Clinical Associate Professor of Family Medicine

Liz Tobin Tyler, JD, MA
Clinical Assistant Professor of Family Medicine
The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University
Clinical Assistant Professor of Health Services, Policy and Practice
Brown School of Public Health
Adjunct Professor
Roger Williams University School of Law

Alpert Medical School has a longstanding commitment to community involvement and patient advocacy as essential elements in medical education. The mission of Brown Medical School lists two major goals for its graduates: “that they be broadly and liberally educated men and women, and that they view medicine as a socially responsible human service profession.” Brown Med graduates are known to be scientifically informed, scholastically excellent physicians and devoted patient advocates, who are committed to public service. Building on this student profile, a faculty commitment to advocacy, and a diverse training environment, Brown is well positioned to integrate activism and advocacy as a central part of its new medical training program.

The Scholarly Track in Advocacy/Activism will promote new scholarship that addresses a range of timely issues including:

  • The societal and economic consequences of disparities in the provision of medical care
  • Collaborative (cross-disciplinary) approaches to advocating for the underserved (to be carried out with our colleagues at Roger Williams University Law School and other concentrations with similar goals such as Caring for Underserved Communities, Health Policy, and Women's Reproductive Health)
  • Shaping public policy
  • Advocacy across borders – implications for global health

We intend to take full advantage of the broader Brown community of teachers and researchers, including public policy experts from the Taubman Center, The Center for Study of Urban Education Policy, scholars from the Watson Institute for International Studies, faculty within the Program in Public Health and the International Health Institute.


Learning Objectives

  • Concentrators will gain an understanding of advocacy and activism on behalf of patients and their communities as an essential part of professionalism.
  • Concentrators will understand the role of structural violence and societal injustice in creating health disparities.
  • Concentrators will gain skills and experience in identifying issues, analyzing issues and policy, organizing advocacy strategies, and advocating for patients and communities with policy makers, stakeholders, with the media, and legislatively.
  • Concentrators will be able to analyze and influence health and social policy to the benefit of patients and their communities.

Concentrators will design and carry out a summer research project between years I and II.  It is hoped that they will continue their advocacy and activism pursuits throughout the remainder of their medical school education, particularly during the second year.  It is expected that concentrators (from MD 2016 on)  will  produce a scholarly product such as a published paper in a peer-reviewed journal, or a presentation at a national meeting  or a policy paper with a targeted distribution to key area decision-makers that would be of a  quality that it would be suitable for broader distribution. This  product should be created with the guidance and feedback of their project mentor.  It may be based on the summer research project or may be an outgrowth of interests developed as a result of the Poverty, Health and Law course.  The student will be expected to communicate regularly with the concentration director about the direction and status of their scholarly work.  

Timeline of Activities

Year I: All students will receive experiential opportunities and didactic sessions on a wide range of issues of social justice and health care. This will be done as part of the Doctoring course.
Students interested in pursuing deeper study of advocacy and activism will identify a mentor and propose a project for summer following Year I. The mentor will continue working with the students through completion of the capstone project.

Summer between Years I & II: Experiential Learning/ in-depth study. Opportunities may include working with legislators, at the Department of Health, at community based organizations, policy and advocacy organizations, or studying the history of an issue or topic. In addition, summer immersion experiences should include service learning work with vulnerable populations and their communities.

The rationale for this is that (1) it puts the advocacy into context and is made relevant to the people most affected by it; and (2) it practices an approach that discourages students from being interlopers into a community of need who may take on an issue but with little connection to the cause, process, or outcome.  The summer cultural immersion model, particularly for international studies programs, is used commonly in undergraduate education as a means of informing cultural competency and might be an interesting process driving advocacy competency.

Year II: Students will be encouraged to pursue coursework in electives such as public policy, community health, or other areas related to their issues of interest. In addition, Poverty, Health and Law is a six-session evening seminar offered each fall and is held jointly with Roger Williams University Law students. Concentrators are required to attend.

Year III:  Throughout their third year core clerkships, advocacy concentrators will be encouraged to keep a case-series related to their chosen issue. They will keep a reflective journal as they complete various clerkships, documenting ways in which the issue they are studying affects different population as they encounter the health care system. 

Year IV: Advocacy Concentrators will be encouraged to take electives related to their areas of interest, both clinical electives, study electives, coursework.

Year IV: Advocacy Concentrators will share their scholarly project with classmates.  The capstone project will be (1) something that could be presented at a regional or national meeting; or (2) a policy paper with a targeted distribution to key area decision-makers that would be of a mentored-quality that it would be suitable for broader distribution. 

Concentration Related Electives

BIOL 3710 C: Poverty, Health, and Law
BIOL 3710 L: Health Care in America

Child Maltreatment
Controversies in the Health Care Policy
Occupational and Environmental Medicolegal Medicine

Project Examples

  1. A study of Access to Health Care of Undocumented Children in Rhode Island.
    1. An in-depth analysis of the issue and its demographics in RI
    2. An understanding of policies and regulatory issues that help or hinder access
    3. Identifying and meeting with people in RI including families, community activists, legislators, policy makers and other stakeholders in RI
    4. A study of model programs across the US
    5. A proposal, plan and implementation strategy to improve access
  2. Nutrition and Exercise for Rhode Island Teens
    1. An in-depth analysis of the issue and its demographics in RI
    2. An understanding of laws, policies, and regulations that impact the issue
    3. Identifying groups and initiatives addressing the issue, including teens
    4. Study model programs from around the US
    5. Develop a proposal, plan, and implementation strategy to improve nutrition and exercise among teens in RI
  3. Improving Recreational Opportunities for Special Needs Youth in South Providence
    1. An in-depth analysis of the issue and its demographics. (follow families and kids, map playgrounds, analyze for access and safety)
    2. An understanding of policies, laws, and regulations that impact the issue. Explore planning/zoning processes. Perhaps do “Child heath Impact” study on proposed building or roads projects
    3. Identify groups and initiatives already involved, key stakeholders, policy makers, and neighborhood organizations
    4. Develop a proposal, plan, and implementation strategy to improve opportunities for recreation for Special Needs children in South Providence
  4. For more examples of potential projects, please visit the Patient Advocacy Coordinating Council's list of "orphaned" projects

2011 and 2012 Accepted Students and Scholarly Concentration Projects

Student Project Title Mentor
Damiano, Ella
Increasing SNAP usage at RI Farmers’ Markets
Dr. Edward Feller
Burke, Colin
Putting a face to Providence’s homeless veteran population: A population study
Dr. Thomas O'Toole
Chu, Katrina
Socioeconomic Disparities in Cancer Care: a Broad-Based Analysis and Multi-level Advocacy Dean Marjorie Thompson, PhD
Hussain, Rashid
Global and Local Health Inequities
Stephen McGarvey
Mohan, Suresh
Recording Ethnicity, Race and Language: A comparison of documented and self-identified demographics Dr. Megan L. Ranney, MD, MPH

Maximum Number of Students

Four students per year

Faculty Mentors

The concentration directors and staff will help you identify appropriate mentors for projects.

Funding Opportunities (alternatives to Summer Assistantships)

At the present time there are no resources other than the generally available Summer Assistantships (SA’s) that can be used by students in an Advocacy & Activism Concentration.