Each cohort of Beyond the Books (BtB) leaders has changed and added to the existing BTB program format, and the program will change again for the 2018 - 2019 academic year. However, the general outline of the program and the core principles upheld by BtB remain much the same. Each year there have been two parts to the program: one component that is more classroom and discussion-oriented, and another that focuses on the relationships between BTB students and their community partners.
- Didactic Education
BTB students will enroll in a year-long classroom and community-based curriculum intended to further explore existing and historical health disparities and the forces that drive them. Special emphasis is placed on providing students with an understanding of issues relevant to the health of minority and stigmatized communities in the United States. The curriculum will begin with student orientations held at BTB’s’ partner organizations in the community. Last year and this coming year, our primary community partner is the Upper Valley Haven, a wonderful organization located in Hartford, VT. The remainder of the curriculum will consist of a series of lectures by guest professors and clinicians involved in the care of underserved communities, journal article and panelist discussions, documentary screenings, and small group discussions.
- Community Partnership
While in-depth knowledge regarding health disparities is essential if physicians are to advance health equity, empathy and compassion are of equal importance. Unfortunately, numerous studies have shown that medical school adversely impacts student attitudes toward underserved communities. In an effort to combat this, BTB seeks to foster a deep connection between medical students and underserved individuals and communities within the Upper Valley. At the beginning of the program, each student is paired with a volunteer community mentor who comes from a disadvantaged background. Students are required to meet with their community partner once per month. Gaining a familiarity with the lives and stories of community mentors provides a space for students to recognize and dismantle false preconceptions and develop an empathy and understanding for underserved individuals and the challenges they face.