The Social History…It’s About the Patient – Culture and All

Date of Review: April, 2019

This resource introduces the concept of taking a social history to second-year medical students. Using the fictional case of a Spanish-speaking Salvadorean immigrant who presents with abdominal pain, the curriculum covers issues directly and peripherally related to taking a social history, including interviewing skills, the challenges of having family members serve as interpreters, and the need for knowledge of and competence with patients’ cultural backgrounds. It includes case-based learning, small group discussion, and a large group lecture, which can all be delivered in approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes (total across all components). The resource includes all materials required for faculty to deliver the curriculum, and is likely flexible to cases that may be more germane to the sociodemographic makeup of other regions/cities. As stated by the authors, this case can be offered either within a cultural competency curriculum, gastroenterology sequence, or a physical diagnosis curriculum. Potential drawbacks include the fact that Salvadorean immigrant populations may not be particularly large in some regions, and the curriculum promotes in-depth history taking that may not be practical in many real-world physicians’ offices. Nevertheless, the curriculum is both feasible to deliver to students and promotes learning of valuable skills required for social history taking. — Dave Liss, PhD NCEAS and Elizabeth Painter PhD, NCEAS

Corresponding Author’s Email:


University of Michigan Medical School

Where Was the Curriculum Implemented?

Ann Arbor, MI

Source of the Curriculum/Resource:


Relevant Specialty:

Currently presented as part of a second-year clinical foundations course. Resource suggested that it could also be taught with GI or the physical exam curriculum

Outcomes that Have Been Reported for the Curriculum:

Learner Satisfaction or reaction

Self-reported learner knowledge

Outcome and Study Design:

Post Only

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