An innovative undergraduate course, “Disparities in Medicine,” addresses diversity and how healthcare workers can embrace patients’ distinctive cultural beliefs, languages and faiths to provide better care.

Biological Sciences 92 may only be a one-unit, pass/not pass course that requires no homework, but for future doctors like Kathy Vo, it’s pivotal.

“Disparities in Medicine” addresses diversity – specifically, how healthcare workers can embrace patients’ distinctive cultural beliefs, languages and faiths to provide better care.

“This is different from all my other bio sci courses,” says senior Vo before the first meeting of the Wednesday night class. “It’s about interacting with people, a more hands-on approach to medicine that can teach me a lot about what it takes to be a doctor someday.”

The winter-quarter course welcomes anyone — enrolled at UC Irvine or not — who wants to learn more about the topic and regularly draws more than 100 students.

It’s the only undergraduate class of its kind in the nation, says Prany Sananikone, director of diversity relations & educational programs in UCI’s Office of Equal Opportunity & Diversity. He came up with the concept about 10 years ago, starting with student workshops, and remains one of four Bio Sci 92 directors.

“A course like this, which examines many different cultural and disparity issues, is needed more than ever before,” Sananikone says. “Like much of the U.S., Orange County is very diverse, and by raising awareness of our diversity, we hope to address the healthcare disparities that affect different cultural groups in this country and around the world.”

Although he created “Disparities in Medicine,” it’s managed by 10 student coordinators who took the class the previous year. They determine the weekly topics, which range from African American health and international medicine to Latino health and healthcare reform. Each lecture is given by a top expert in that field.

Among the most popular, Sananikone says, is Dr. Henri Colt’s annual discussion of the delicate intersection of religion and medicine. (His talk this year is at 6 p.m. Feb. 9 in Humanities Gateway 1800.)

The course has been known to transform students’ approach to healthcare and alter their worldview. Addressing those at the first meeting, academic counselor Susana Sandoval, another Bio Sci 92 director, says: “At the end of this class, you will be a different person.”

Dawoud Sulaiman certainly agrees. The senior biological sciences major took the course last year and returned as a student coordinator in 2011.

“This class has enlightened me and given me a unique perspective on the diversity issues we’ll come across as doctors,” he says. “I feel that medicine really is the greatest field to go into because you can reach and help so many different people from all over the world.”

 

Share.