Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Center for Primary Care Innovation
Skip to main content

Social Determinants of Health in Family Medicine Residency

The goal of this project is to develop and demonstrate a novel curriculum design in family medicine residency that reinforces comprehensive care in the context of patients' communities.

Project Summary

In the following video, Deborah Smith Clements, MD — chair of Family and Community Medicine, Nancy and Warren Furey Professor of Community Medicine and professor of Medical Education — discusses the importance of the family medicine residency project and her role as principal investigator.

Watch this video


Excellent clinical care includes serious consideration of each patient's subjective experience and the impact of the patient's psychological state and social surroundings. It also requires a curriculum that supports early, robust continuity experience across a diverse spectrum. To achieve the "triple aim" and to prepare our primary care physicians of the future, it's crucial that residency training integrates information from both the disease level and the population level as early as possible. Recent studies indicate that longitudinal patient care experiences in medical school over the course of years rather than weeks result in improved performance, greater learner satisfaction and a strong sense of patient-centeredness in learners. 

Despite long-held family medicine values of developing a continuous, comprehensive relationship with patients in the context of their communities, family medicine residency training is largely conducted in a rotation-based curriculum with gradually increasing responsibility for continuity clinic patients over time. We believe that longitudinal exposure to principles of social determinants of health within the context of long-term continuity care relationships across multiple clinical and community settings in family medicine residency will improve residents' approach to patient care and, ultimately, the health of the community.

Specific Aims

The overall goal of this project is to develop, implement and demonstrate the effectiveness of a novel, longitudinal curriculum design in family medicine residency that reinforces the principles of continuous, comprehensive care in the context of the patient's community. The specific aims in Year 1 are to:

  1. Conduct a needs assessment to identify current gaps in family medicine residency education regarding social determinants of health
  2. Design a 36-month curriculum that incorporates the concepts of social medicine and care continuity into residency training and practice
  3. Pilot and test feasibility of a "community vital sign" into the electronic health record to increase recognition of social factors impacting patient health

Project Team

Project Manager

Katherine Wright, PhD

Back to top