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Social Determinants of Health Pathway

Please visit the Social Determinants of Health Pathway’s website for detailed information


Our mission is to provide the next generation of physicians and health professionals with necessary knowledge and skill sets in health disparities, health equity, and social determinants that can be applied to caring for patients in medically underserved communities, conducting relevant research, and designing public health policy.


Healthcare is a very complex system of intertwining factors, and physicians as well as various other health care providers play a key role in coordinating these different factors when facilitating care. By shaping health care professionals with this role in mind, health outcomes will be improved and progress will be seen on many different fronts.

Addressing health disparities is at the heart of the practice of medicine. As stated by Mary Bassett, the New York City Commissioner of Health and Mental Hygiene:

As health professionals in our daily work, whether in the clinic or doing research, we are witness to great injustice: the homeless person who is unable to follow medical advice because he has more pressing priorities, the transgender youth who is contemplating suicide because our society is just so harsh, the single mother who has been made to feel that she is responsible for the poor health of her child. Our role is not just to treat our patients but to sound the alarm and advocate for change. Rightfully or not, our societal position gives our voices great credibility, and we shouldn't waste that.”

Educating and training physicians to address health disparities and health inequities is one approach to ensuring that future physicians have the knowledge and skills that will enable them to care for underserved patients, conduct research, and influence policy, thereby making a meaningful contribution to ameliorating health disparities.

Therefore, the goal of the Social Determinants of Health Pathway at SUNY Downstate is to offer a longitudinal experience within a social cognitive framework that will enhance students’ understanding of how a multiplicity of social factors operate at the individual, community, system, and policy level and how they influence health outcomes including health care delivery, with a focus on underserved populations, like the one we serve in East Flatbush. Its main goal is to empower medical students to identify the gaps and inequities in care, the consequences of those inequities on outcomes, the different factors (the “social determinants”) that may be contributing to them, and then to develop a multifaceted and multidisciplinary array of solutions applicable in different professional settings to address them: the clinical setting, the scientific research setting, and the policy setting. As such, the pathway will shape the approach that future physicians have in their practice by informing their attitudes, knowledge and skills, better equipping them to be leaders in the field of medicine, and advocates for equal access to quality health care, eventually improving future health care outcomes.