College of Liberal Arts

Structural Competency, Five Years On: Tracking a New Medical Approach to Stigma and Inequality

Wednesday May 30, 2018 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM | Health Discovery Building Auditorium

On May 30, a final public symposium for the Heath Meets Humanities Pop-Up Institute (PUI) will be held, featuring a keynote address by Dr. Jonathan Metzl, director of the Center for Medicine, Health, and Society, at Vanderbilt University. His keynote lecture will concern "Structural Competency, Five Years On: Tracking a New Medical Approach to Stigma and Inequality."

This talk describes a shift in medical education away from pedagogic approaches to stigma and inequalities that emphasize cross-cultural understandings of individual patients, toward attention to forces that influence health outcomes at levels above individual interactions. It reviews existing structural approaches to stigma and health inequalities developed outside of medicine, and proposes changes to U.S. medical education that will infuse clinical training with a structural focus. The approach, termed “structural competency,” consists of training in five core competencies: 1) recognizing the structures that shape clinical interactions; 2) developing an extra-clinical language of structure; 3) rearticulating “cultural” formulations in structural terms; 4) observing and imagining structural interventions; and 5) developing structural humility. Examples are provided of structural health scholarship that should be adopted into medical didactic curricula, and of structural interventions that can provide participant-observation opportunities for clinical trainees. The talk ultimately argues that increasing recognition of the ways in which social and economic forces produce symptoms or methylate genes then needs to be better coupled with medical models for structural change.

Jonathan Metzl is the Frederick B. Rentschler II Professor of Sociology and Psychiatry, and the Director of the Center for Medicine, Health, and Society, at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. He received his MD from the University of Missouri, MA in humanities/poetics and Psychiatric internship/residency from Stanford University, and PhD in American Culture from University of Michigan, A 2008 Guggenheim fellow, Professor Metzl has written extensively for medical, psychiatric, and popular publications. His books include The Protest PsychosisProzac on the Couch, and Against HealthHow Health Became the New Morality.

The Health & Humanities Pop-Up Institute is a collaboration between the Office of the Vice President of Research and the Humanities Institute at the University of Texas at Austin through the following endowments: the Holloway Centennial Lectureship, the Hoffman Centennial Lectureship, the Kidd Centennial Lectureship, and the Ho Distinguished Lecture in China Studies Endowment. Additional support comes from the College of Liberal Arts, the Department of English, and the Dell Medical School.

This event is free and open to the public. 

For more information regarding the Health and Humanities PUI times, locations, and parking, visit the following site: https://liberalarts.utexas.edu/humanitiesinstitute/research-initiatives/medical-humanities/health-and-humanities-pop-up-institute.php 

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