MS-2: Population Health

October 26, 2022-February 15, 2023
12 sessions

Course Director
Alfred Shoukry, MD
Clinical Instructor
Department of Medicine

Course Description

A key element of 21st century medical education is preparing students to care for the entire population. Subjects that are within the broad field of population health include public health, prevention, social medicine, evidence-based medicine, and health care systems and finance, global health, and social determinants of health. This course addresses key subjects within population health, with an emphasis on helping students understand the systems and environment that influence health and health care delivery.

The course is comprised of content units on a diverse range of subjects. These subjects converge as part of the systems that comprise and influence the health and care of a single person. For each subject, the material will address the topic to an introductory depth, with attention to tailoring the material to the experience and knowledge base of a pre-clinical, second year student. The selected topics have particular relevance at this point in the curriculum as students prepare to transition to the clinical environment.

Six major topics are being addressed: health care finance, public health, social determinants of health, global health, patient safety, and health care reform. The learning modalities include self-study of background materials plus various application activities. The background materials will provide an opportunity to learn the basic knowledge on the topic, and include video presentations and selected readings. During the application activities, students will engage in problem-solving exercises, identify key issues, and participate in a unique simulation exercise.

The overall goal of the course is for students to develop a deeper understanding of the interconnected issues that influence the health of populations.

Course Objectives:

  1. Describe strategies for physicians to improve the health of their patient population.
  2. Discuss the relationship of socioeconomic differences to health status.
  3. Discuss factors contributing to disparities in health care and potential interventions.
  4. Outline variables that influence access to health care.
  5. Discuss the special needs of vulnerable populations in Western Pennsylvania.
  6. Explain public, employer and personal sources of health care payment.
  7. Explain the differences between Medicare, Medicaid and commercial insurance.
  8. Describe the challenges faced by patients attempting to understand their health insurance choices.
  9. Define health care quality, medical error and adverse outcome.
  10. Discuss the impact of medical error and the importance of communication and teamwork in preventing error.

Educational Methods

  • Large group didactic session
  • Small group exercises
  • Self-study assignments
  • Written assignments
  • Poverty simulation exercise


To achieve a satisfactory grade, a student must complete all assignments and participate in all face-to-face sessions. In addition, a student must receive a passing grade of at least 60% on the final exam.

Grading: This course comprises 100% of the grade for the Patient, Physician, and Society Block, Section 3. Grading for the block is Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory.

Faculty Note

Carla Spagnoletti, MD is a recipient of the William I. Cohen Award for Excellence in Clinical Skills Instruction. Beth Piraino, MD and Diemthuy Bui, MD are recipients of the Kenneth E. Schuit Master Educator Award. William Walker, PhD and Peggy Hasley, MD are recipients of the Sheldon Adler Award for Innovation. Dr. Ankur Doshi received the Donald S. Fraley Award for Medical Student Mentoring. Peter Veldkamp, MD, MS is a recipient of the Clerkship Preceptor of the Year Award. In addition, Diemthuy Bui, MD; Carla Spagnoletti, MD; Peggy Hasley, MD; Ankur Doshi, MD; and Peter Veldkamp, MD, MS are members of the UPSOM Academy of Master Educators.