News & Research

Our Voices of Change

BY CAROL R. BRADFORD, M.D.
Summer 2017
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Two medical students discuss a patient visit with Rafat Rizk, M.D., assistant professor of gastroenterology, at the U-M Student-Run Free Clinic.
Two medical students discuss a patient visit with Rafat Rizk, M.D., assistant professor of gastroenterology, at the U-M Student-Run Free Clinic.

Our bold and innovative new medical student curriculum has, at its core, the expectation that our students will be change agents who transform medicine and health care. Our leaders, graduate students, residents and fellows, and faculty and staff share these aspirations, one of many reasons the University of Michigan Medical School is leading the charge into a new era of medical education and global health care. 

Recent events have caused many in our medical school community to reflect on our values of diversity, equity and inclusion across our medical campus and in our aspirations to have a global impact on health and health care education. 

Thus, it should come as no surprise that we heard loudly and clearly from our students, who are deeply troubled by these events. Their outspokenness — equal parts passion and concern — is something we have come to expect. In nearly 170 years of learning the practice of medicine, our students always have expressed a variety of opinions and, many times, made loud calls for change. 

We ask our students to play an active role in improving how we prepare the physicians and scientists of the future. Their voices often have spurred adjustments to the proposed course of action. 

This includes, ironically, speaking out about the changing curriculum that is urging them to become involved and make their voices heard. We ask our students to play an active role in improving how we prepare the physicians and scientists of the future. Their voices often have spurred adjustments to the proposed course of action. As a result, our students influence their own course to become leaders who will change health care. 

An example of the broadened perspective is our students’ commitment to care for the underserved, which aligns with U-M’s focus on community outreach. With voice, and then action, our students helped to establish the U-M Student-Run Free Clinic (SRFC), an organization dedicated to providing quality health care free of charge to uninsured community members, while creating opportunities for U-M students and physicians to confront health disparities through direct action. 

Every Saturday morning and Wednesday afternoon at the SRFC in Pinckney, Mich., our students provide primary and preventive care for uninsured adults in rural Livingston County. They were very vocal about creating this opportunity, and in April 2017 the SRFC celebrated five years serving the uninsured and underinsured in the greater Pinckney area. 

As leaders, we encourage our students to keep talking, whether it is about national immigration policies, changing what and how they learn or improving access to health care. We welcome their voices, and we stand with them in upholding the values we hold dear. These include an unwavering commitment to mutual respect, diversity, equity and inclusion within our school and in our global outreach. 

As we send the Class of 2017 into residency, they enter a health care system that is full of diverse groups — patients, families, communities and even their colleagues — calling on them to lead change. Many will do it in voice, others in silent action. When the major changes on the horizon for medicine globally begin, I am confident our students will lead the discourse and action. 

Their voices matter because we have the unique perspective as a state-funded public university with a broad and meaningful global impact. When our faculty, staff and learners speak, people listen. 

Carol R. Bradford (M.D. 1986, Fellowship 1988, Residency 1992) is the Charles J. Krause, M.D., Collegiate Professor of Otolaryngology and the executive vice dean for academic affairs at the Medical School. 

Photo by Leisa Thompson Photography