Albert Einstein College of Medicine Social Medicine Course

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The Social Medicine Course at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine is celebrating its 10th birthday in 2008. It was founded by a group of 8 students in 1998 and remains entirely student-run.

Why a course in social medicine?

Traditionally, the preclinical science curriculum of medical school has left huge gaps in medically relevant, but “unscientific,” topics. Specifically, social factors such as economics, politics, race, and other issues related to healthcare disparities are often minimally addressed. The Social Medicine course aims to inform students about current issues in medical ethics, health economics, health policy and various other topics dealing with health and disease from a socio-economic perspective. The course is offered annually and has been very well attended in recent years. It runs in the spring semester for 12-14 weeks. Students design the curriculum each year, and the lectures are given by faculty and invited speakers. Topics covered in the course have included: the practice of social medicine, correctional health, community-based clinics, the ethics of stem cell research, medical waste, drug policy in the US, no free lunch, healthcare for people with disabilities, the politics of abortion, gun violence, elder abuse, race/ethnicity and unequal treatment, refugee health, liberation medicine, war as a public health problem, and more.

For more information on the 2008 course, please contact the organizers: Laureen Ojalvo and Carolyn Saylor. What follows is the 2008 schedule (which can also be downloaded here).

Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Matthew R. Anderson, MD, MSc, Irwin Redlener, MD,

Carol Harris, MD and Victor Sidel, MD:

“OPENING SESSION: Social Medicine Practice on the Community, National and Global Levels”
The kick-off session for the 2008 course is an introduction to and celebration of the practice of Social Medicine. This event will be chaired by Dr. Victor Sidel who has been the faculty mentor for the course since its inception. The night begins with Matt Anderson, MD from the Department of Social Medicine at Montefiore Medical Center. His title is ‘Introduction to Social Medicine.’ The evening continues with a presentation by the President of the Children’s Health Fund, and Associate Dean for Public Health Advocacy and Preparedness at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, Irwin Redlener, MD titled, ‘A Failed Recovery: Stranding Children and Families in the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.’ The last speaker for the evening is Carol Harris, MD who directs the Global HIV Medicine Institute at AECOM and will discuss ‘Through the Wardrobe Door from Bronx to Africa.’
We welcome all to join us at the conclusion of this session for a reception outside Robbins Auditorium.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Robert Fullilove, EdD:

“Race and Health”

Associate Dean for Community and Minority Affairs, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University

Dr. Robert Fullilove teaches courses including Race and Health in the Department of Sociomedical Sciences. Dr. Fullilove is a civil rights advocate, a community organizer of over 40+ years, and a researcher who has been involved with IOM studies on minority health, substance abuse and addiction, HIV/AIDS, TB. Dr. Fullilove brings his work to AECOM in this talk discussing the public health impact as it involves race and racism.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Gal Mayer, MD:

“The Medical Care of Transgender Patients”

Medical Director, Callen-Lorde Clinic
Gal Mayer, MD, is Medical Director of the Callen-Lorde clinic ( in Manhattan, serving New York’s LGBT community. He is an AECOM graduate. This session will focus on the concepts of what is transgender? what is gender? what do all the words mean? what pronoun do I use? How do I stay respectful?

W ednesday, January 30, 2008
Len Rodberg, PhD:

“Presidential Candidates’ Proposals for Universal Health Care”

Chair, Professor, Urban Studies Department, Queens College
Leonard Rodberg teaches the Department’s undergraduate and graduate courses on using the computer in urban analysis, as well as courses on the urban economy and health care policy. Rodberg is also Research Director for the NY Metro Chapter of PNHP. Rodberg, a theoretical physicist by training, is the Chair of the Department. He has a background in public policy and the social impact of technology. Rodberg has worked with the Office of Community Studies in developing Infoshare Community Information System, a computerized data base system that allows community groups, non-profit organizations, and others to access demographic, health, and economic information about New York City. The Infoshare system and databases are now on the web, at,and are in use by organizations and individuals throughout the City and State.
Talk: The Presidential candidates have each put forward their proposals for “affordable quality health coverage for all.” Many of these proposals share a common set of elements. What are those elements? What is missing from these plans? Are they politically “realistic?” Will they work?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Irene Soloway, RPA and Donald Davis, VHIP:

“Harm Reduction in the Bronx: Dealing with the Hepatitis Epidemic among IV Drug Users”

Viral Hepatitis Intervention Program, AECOM
VHIP is a government-funded harm reduction program geared towards education and prevention of viral hepatitis in the Bronx community. It is primarily run by NYHRE (New York Harm Reduction and Education) and AECOM faculty (Dr. Alain Littwin and Dr. Melissa Stein of the Department of Medicine.) Students are closely supervised by AECOM faculty, Irene Soloway and NYHRE supervisor Donald Davis, as they assist in giving vaccinations and phlebotomy, as well as providing health education and counseling to program clients.

Many of these clients participate in the syringe exchange program located next to the VHIP tent. New services are always being introduced, including rapid HIV testing and student-run group counseling sessions.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008 – ***7:30pm – 8:30pm***
Lanny Smith, MD, MPH, TM:

“Liberation Medicine”

Clinical Faculty Residency Program in Social Internal Medicine and Primary Care at Montefiore
“In September of 2000 I joined the Residency Program in Social Medicine, clear that here is an environment within which it is possible to promote social justice through teaching and example. I continue in my volunteer position as Liberation Medicine Council and Member of the President’s Council of the International Humanitarian and Solidarity Volunteer Association Doctors for Global Health, DGH (, an organization I helped to found in 1995 which does concrete, positive work in social justice in El Salvador, Chiapas, Uganda and many other countries, including the USA. Among my responsibilities in the Residency Program in Social Medicine is teaching the core seminar in Liberation Medicine, “the conscious, conscientious use of health to promote social justice and human dignity,” a course which draws significantly on the Health and Human Rights Movement as well as the legacy of Community Oriented Primary Care, (COPC). I am also part of the group teaching Health Educators at Highbridge Community Life Center in the South Bronx. I serve as faculty mentor in International Health Electives for AECOM students and am on the Governing Council of the International Health Medical Education Consortium, IHMEC.” – quoted from faculty webpage at the Department of Family and Social Medicine.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008
David Bell, MD, MPH:

“Young Men’s Sexual Health and Reproductive Rights”

Assistant Clinical Professor of Pediatrics and Assistant Clinical Professor of Population and Family Health, Columbia University
“Dr. David Bell is an adolescent medicine physician and works primarily with ages 12-24. Dr. Bell is the medical director of the Young Men’s Clinic and the School-Based Clinic Program. The Young Men’s Clinic is a unique adjunct to the Center’s Family Planning Clinic. The school-based clinic program consists of 3 middle schools, and 2 high schools in upper Manhattan. Both are direct service components of the Center for Community Health and Education within the Mailman School of Public Health. He provides direct patient care for adolescent and young adult males and females within the Young Men’s Clinic and the Family Planning Clinic. He supervises mid-level practitioners at the school sites, as well as residents and students in the Young Men’s Clinic. Dr. Bell is currently on the board of directors for the Guttmacher Institute. He has consulted for the federal Office of Family Planning, and assisted with trainings on male health with Federal OFP Regions I, II, IV and VI, as well as with Engender Health (formerly AVSC). He has appeared on MTV, BET, and CBS, promoting male health issues. Dr. Bell completed a three-year adolescent medicine specialty fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.”

Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Neil Aggarwal, MD, MA:

“Abusing Psychiatry: The Role of Psychiatrists in the War on Terror”

Yale Department of Psychiatry
After graduating from Case Western Reserve University with degrees in business and medicine, Neil enrolled at Harvard where he studied religion and anthropology of South Asia and the Middle East. He is interested in cross-cultural and international psychiatry of these regions, psychiatric anthropology, and the role of religion in healing.

About the Talk: I titled the talk “Abusing Psychiatry” for two reasons. The first is an attempt to be clever. The second is because it’s a play on words which actually reflects a professional tension that I’d like to explore regarding the role of psychiatrists in the War on Terror. I’d like to briefly review the literature within bioethics, medicine, and psychiatry to see how people have conceptualized the participation of psychiatrists in the War. Then I’d like to counter this literature with several key authors from anthropology and philosophy in order to help expose many of the assumptions medical professionals take for granted. I seek not to offer any final answers or to adjudicate between these divergent schools of thought, but rather to stimulate critical discussion on how we perceive our professional responsibilities. These questions require us to probe ourselves and for this reason, I don’t want to offer any solutions.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Allan Ross, MD:

“Public Health and Pediatrics in Kosovo”

Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, Columbia University
Dr. Alan Ross completed medical school in San Antonio when he was fifty. He had studied and taught Slavic studies for twenty years before that and, as part of his training, had spent a year in Tito’s Yugoslavia . He learned Serbo-Croat in Belgrade and made lasting friendships there. He and his wife met their first Albanians-not in the Balkans but at Albert Einstein and its affiliated hospitals. In order to learn some Albanian (she did, he didn’t!), they spent their honeymoon in Kosova in 1986. After the abrogation of the province’s autonomy by Milosevich, five years later, Dr. Ross began to devise public health programs for the area: these included a vaccination program in 1991, a TB campaign in 1994, the despatch of neonatal assistance teams to vulnerable children born in hospital, at home, and in an illegal private birthing center in 1996 and, when the rebellion began, the reorganization of a clinic for children driven out of their villages by the police. He gained -and lost- many friends during that time, most,but not all, Albanians, and it is in their honor that he reads these stories tonight.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Sheldon Tepperman, MD:

“Gun Violence”

Chief of Trauma and Critical Care Surgery at Jacobi Medical Center
Dr. Tepperman has firsthand experience with the devastation that gun violence can have in the Bronx. He is not only involved in the medical care of gun violence victims and their families, but he is a dedicated activist for legislative change and sits on the board of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence. He gives a riveting talk describing not only the impact that gun violence can have on our community, but several measures that can be taken to curb the illegal sale and use of guns.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Gary Kalkut, MD:

“Correctional Health at Rikers Island Health Services”

Vice President and Senior Medical Director, Montefiore Medical Center
Correctional healthcare is a challenging but rewarding area of medicine to which physicians receive little exposure. Dr. Kalkut, an attending physician from the Department of Medicine at Montefiore, will share his experiences and anecdotes as a physician at the maximum security Rikers Island Correctional Facility in NYC, which was a Montefiore facility until 1998. He will also talk about correctional healthcare as primary care for a needy population, with strong public health, social, and political implications.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Karen Hein, MD:

“Impact of Conflict, Tsunamis and HIV on Children”

Clinical Professor, Department of Pediatrics and Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, AECOM
“Karen Hein, M.D., became President of the William T. Grant Foundation on September 8, 1998. Dr. Hein was the Executive Officer of the Institute of Medicine (National Academy of Sciences) from December 30, 1994 to June 30, 1998. Dr. Hein is Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, Epidemiology and Social Medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. From l993-l994 she worked on health care reform as a member of the Senate Finance Committee staff in Washington, D.C., drafting legislation related to health benefits, workforce, and financing medical education and academic health centers.

Dr. Hein graduated from the University of Wisconsin (l966), attended Dartmouth Medical School (l966-l968) and received her medical degree from Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons in l970. She was one of the founding members of the Dartmouth Medical School Board of Overseers (1973-1978).

During the past 25 years, Dr. Hein has assumed a variety of roles related to health policy through her activities in program development, teaching and clinical research. She directed a model program for health care of juvenile detainees. In l987, she founded the nation’s first adolescent HIV/AIDS program. She worked closely with the Board of Education to expand AIDS education to the million students in the New York City public school system. She has written over l50 articles, chapters and abstracts related to adolescent health, particularly focusing on high risk youth. Her book entitled, AIDS: Trading Fears for Facts, has sold over 100,000 volumes.

Dr. Hein has served as a consultant or advisor to many city, state and federal health organizations. She was President of the Society for Adolescent Medicine in l992. She has been a recipient of several awards including an Assistant Secretary for Health Award (DHHS) in l989, Health Care Financing Administrator’s Award (HCFA) in l993 and Stewart B. McKinney Foundation in l994 for leadership in the HIV epidemic. She is currently on the editorial advisory boards of 3 journals, a member of the Board of Directors of 7 national organizations (and Chair of the Center for Health Care Strategies).” – From David A. Winston Health Policy Fellowship

Wednesday, April 2, 2008 Sarah Woodward:

“Health Care in Nueva Vida, a Nicaraguan Hurricane Mitch Resettlement Community”

Center for Development in Central America, Ciudad Sandino, Nicaragua
Sarah Junkin Woodard comes to us from the Center for Development in Central America (CDCA), the Nicaraguan project of the non-profit, faith-based organization, the Jubilee House Community (JHC). Before moving to Nicaragua in 1994, the JHC operated shelters for the homeless and battered women in Statesville, NC, including facing issues of limited health care for the poor. Working in Nicaragua since then, the CDCA seeks to respond to human needs created by poverty in a nation where 45% of the population lives on less than $1.00/day, one of the poorest peoples in the western hemisphere, and where simply the lack of clean water impacts health on a daily basis. The CDCA is working to help communities become self-sufficient, sustainable, democratic entities, focusing its work in the areas of sustainable economic development, organic agriculture, appropriate technology, education, and health care. Donations of medicines and medical expertise help to defray the expense of running a full-time clinic. Sarah says, “The CDCA has been called to work with, and speak on behalf of, the poor in our area of Nicaragua, and to share their lives and stories with folks in the U.S., to bridge the gap between us and our neighbors.” Proceeds from craft sales go to the operating expenses of the project.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Julio Rivera:

“HIV Treatment Adherence at Lincoln Hospital”

Senior Associate Director, HIV Services Department, Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center, Bronx, NY
Dr. Rivera currently leads the Treatment Adherence Pilot Program at Lincoln Hospital. The Treatment Adherence Pilot Program will enroll 40 HIV-infected individuals already enrolled in the Immunotherapy Clinic who are on or are in the process of being placed on single-dose, daily anti-retroviral (ARV) medication. The 40 patients who be those who have shown themselves to be non-adherent or poorly adherent to their ARV medication regimen. They initially will be assigned to one track, which requires them to receive a weekly visit from a member of the Treatment Adherence Pilot Program health education staff and to present themselves to their medical provider once a month for a medical evaluation.

The patients will be tracked throughout the duration of the Program; it is expected that 10 of the 40 patients will become seriously non-adherent enough to their medication regimen to justify they being transferred to a second track, the Directly Observed Therapy track. Patients in that track will receive daily visits from a member of the Treatment Adherence Pilot Program health education staff, who will observe the patients take their medication and provide them the education and encouragement needed to have them return to becoming adherence to their medication regimen. The patients will also present themselves to their medical provider one a month for a clinical evaluation.

The primary goal of the program is to reduce HIV-related morbidity and mortality, the secondary goals being to identify barriers to patients becoming and remaining adherence to their medication regimen; to reduce hospitalization rates of those patients participating in the Program; to reduce their number of opportunistic infections; to reduce their emergency room visits; to increase their ARV adherence rates; to improve HIV viral load suppression rates and CD4 counts; to educate patients about medication side effects; to build patient trust in the Treatment Adherence health educators and medical providers; to empower patients to become better informed about and involved in their medical treatment plans; and to increase weight gains among those with previous weight loss associated with their treatment regimen.

Please Note: Image from the article “Lincoln Hospital: The Decline of Health Care” published in the Social Medicine Journal ( Volume 2; Number 2; 2007.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Oliver Fein, MD:

“Time for National Health Insurance for the US?”

Associate Dean and Professor of Clinical Medicine and Clinical Public Health, Weill-Cornell Medical College
Oliver Fein, MD Dr. Fein is a practicing general internist with experience in health policy and an interest in access to care, health system reform and global health education. He is currently Professor of Clinical Medicine and Clinical Public Health and Associate Dean for Affiliations at the Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University. As Associate Dean for Affiliations, he is responsible for Weill Cornell’s domestic affiliations and the Office of Global Health Education. He also coordinates the David Rogers Health Policy Colloquium, a weekly interdisciplinary health policy forum at Weill Cornell.
In 2004, Dr. Fein was elected to the Executive Board of the American Public Health Association (APHA). He is Chair of the New York Metro Chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) and was elected President-elect for 2008. He is also on the national board of the Global Health Education Consortium. He is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and serves as Chair of the Health System Reform Committee of the Society of General Internal Medicine (SGIM). He is on the Editorial Board of the journal Medical Care. In 1993-94, he was a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellow in the office of U.S. Senate Majority Leader, George Mitchell.

Talk: The US spends more on healthcare than any other country, yet there are now over 47 million Americans without health insurance. Furthermore, the US has the shortest life expectancy and highest infant mortality rate among developed countries, and over 18,000 people die each year due to lack of insurance. Countries with single-payer systems have longer life spans, less infant deaths, and spend far less on healthcare that covers all of their citizens. Is single-payer National Health Insurance the solution for this country? What are we waiting for?

Wednesday, April 30, 2008 [POSTPONED UNTIL WEDNESDAY, MAY 14]
Victor Sidel, MD:

“War and Public Health”

Distinguished University Professor of Social Medicine at Montefiore
“Dr. Sidel was one of the founders of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) in 1961 and was its president in 1987-88. In 1980 he was one of the founders of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), the recipient of the 1985 Nobel Prize for Peace, and was its co-president from 1993 to 1998. He has spoken and published widely on the economic, social, environmental and health consequences of the arms race, on the risks posed by the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and on the diversion of resources and the curtailment of human rights entailed in responses to the threat of bioterrorism. Dr. Sidel is co-editor with Dr. Barry Levy of War and Public Health (Oxford University Press, 1997; updated paperbound edition, American Public Health Association, 2000) and of Terrorism and Public Health (Oxford University Press, 2003).”

Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Dahlia Wasfi, MD:

“The Human Toll of the Iraq War”

Global Exchange Activist
Please join us May 7th for the closing lecture for this year’s Social Medicine Course! This year 2008 is significant in many ways. Not only does it mark the 10th anniversary of Einstein’s Social Medicine Course, but it also marks the 5th anniversary of the Iraq War. Our closing speaker, Dr. Dahlia Wasfi, will discuss the health consequences and the human toll of the Iraq War, speaking from personal experience during her extended stay in the country.

As future health professionals who may encounter war veterans and their families, as well as immigrants and refugees fleeing from war-torn countries, how can we provide optimal care to our patients? As public citizens making informed decisions this election year, what critical issues should we be aware of as we choose government officials who will guide the future policies of this country? What is our role as physicians and citizens in addressing both health and social issues? Join us May 7th to discuss these and many other issues, and have the rare opportunity to hear from Dr. Wasfi as she provides first-hand accounts and attempts to put a human face to the atrocities of war.

About the speaker: Dr. Dahlia Wasfi was born in 1971 to a Jewish mother and Iraqi father. She spent her early childhood in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq until she returned with her family to the United States in 1977. Dr. Wasfi graduated from Swarthmore College in 1993 with a B.A. in Biology, and from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 1997. Her latest trip to Iraq was a 3-month stay during the spring of 2006, when she traveled to see her family in Basrah. Based on her experiences, she is speaking out against the negative impact of the U.S. invasion on the Iraqi people and the need to end the occupation.

There is also more information on the following websites:

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