female doctor consulting patient

What is Community Medicine?

Chronic disease impacts the lives of millions of Americans and also carries a significant economic burden. It accounts for 90% of the nation’s $4.1 trillion in healthcare expenditures, according to the CDC. More than 877,500 Americans die of heart disease or stroke every year, making it the leading cause of death.

Underserved communities are hit particularly hard by chronic and preventable illnesses due to lack of resources, physician shortages, a disconnect between physicians and the communities they’re serving, and socioeconomic factors such as poverty and unsanitary conditions.

While the traditional healthcare system focuses on treating disease and symptoms of disease, community medicine is unique in that it focuses on prevention. Prevention in this context has many facets, addressing mental and physical health as well as the social determinants of health such as race, economics, and environment.

For example, an individual’s health may be negatively impacted if they do not have access to safe housing or income security. Because unemployment, poverty, and unsafe housing can impact not only individuals but entire communities, then healthcare workers must work to address these issues on a communal level.

This is where community medicine comes into play. Community medicine offers an innovative model where healthcare workers actively go into their communities and stage interventions to address the medical needs of a given community.

Examples of such interventions could be mitigating the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes in a Latinx community in Southern California or improving prenatal care for Black women in Queens.

The Role of Community Medicine

The primary role of community medicine is to decrease the burden of preventable disease in underserved communities by addressing the root cause or by detecting a disease in its early stages. Workers in this field collaborate directly with community members to find the best solution to a particular issue, which helps to bridge the gap between healthcare workers and the communities they serve.

Trust between a patient and their doctor is an essential yet often overlooked component of healthcare. Studies have found that underrepresented minorities are more likely to trust a doctor of the same race, which in turn leads to improvements in patient-doctor interactions, medication adherence, and overall health outcomes.

One Stanford study found that Black men paired with Black physicians were more likely to consent to preventative services such as cardiovascular screenings. In turn, these healthcare workers can more easily build rapport with their patients.

However, more often than not, physicians do not resemble their patients in underserved communities in terms of race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic background. This can be attributed to multiple factors such as the high costs of attending medical school and lack of support structures offered by such programs for those juggling work and family commitments.

Therefore, many community medicine programs actively recruit students from underserved communities who know, understand, and have a strong desire to serve their communities. At the same time, such programs equip students with the tools they need to effectively build trust, determine the needs of a given community, and stage an intervention.

This process increases access to affordable healthcare in underserved communities, bridges the gap between patients and healthcare professionals, provides opportunities for underrepresented minorities to pursue careers in healthcare, and empowers community members to take an active role in their health.

Community Medicine Careers

Many graduates of community medicine degree programs go on to pursue medical school or other advanced healthcare degree programs, becoming physicians, pharmacists, physician assistants, dentists, or occupational therapists.

That said, a Master of Science in Community Medicine degree also prepares graduates to enter the workforce directly and immediately start making a difference in their community if they choose, working in a variety of sectors including education, administration, government, and business.

Top potential occupations (entering the workforce directly):

  • Public Health Advisor
  • Medical Administrator
  • Health and Wellness Director
  • Healthcare Educator
  • Community Health Researcher
  • Community Health/Services Director
  • Health Equity Director
  • Managed Care Director
  • Director of Primary Care Practice Management
  • Entrepreneur

Jumpstart Your Career With KGI’s Master of Science in Community Medicine Program

KGI’s Master of Science in Community Medicine (MSCM) program is a great choice for those looking to work with underserved communities to help reduce the burden of disease and detect treatable conditions while forging valuable connections. Whether you want to work in the field directly upon graduation or continue on to medical, dental, or PA school, the MSCM program will leave you well-prepared for a thriving career in healthcare.

You can earn your MSCM degree in only two years. The program is completely online and asynchronous, which means that while you must complete lessons by a specific deadline, you do not have to “show up” to class at a set day and time. This allows you to complete the coursework on your own time, giving you the flexibility you need to pursue your degree from anywhere in the world and to balance school with work and family commitments.

The first year of the program trains you in the interpersonal skills needed to build trust among community members and educates you on the biological and socioeconomic components of health. You will also learn the role that nutrition plays in overall health, the numerous factors affecting individual and community food choice, and the pros and cons of specific programs designed to improve community nutrition. The second year of the program revolves around the capstone project, where you gain hands-on experience working directly with a community to address a particular health issue.

Contact us today to learn more about our two-year MSCM degree, prerequisites, tuition assistance options, and more.

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