Medical students have varied reasons for pursuing healthcare as a career. Seminars provide students with a chance to explore additional topics, share ideas, and gain new perspectives. Below are just a few examples of required courses and optional seminars available to medical students at the Perelman School of Medicine.

Bridging the Gaps (BTG) allows students in health and social service disciplines to broaden their training through interdisciplinary service to underserved communities. Students collaborate with nonprofit organizations throughout Philadelphia and several other regions. Populations vary by site. Components of the BTG program include a seven-week summer Community Health Internship Program (BTG CHIP), a Seminar Series, and a Community Health Rotation.

The BTG Seminar Series draws upon the expertise of participating community partners and academic health centers to address topics related to population health and care coordination. The sessions are designed to augment professional curricula in various content areas and to offer concrete strategies for addressing issues affecting under-resourced populations.

What does it mean to be a physician? One answer to this question sees the physician as participating in and having to manage or negotiate four distinct relationships: doctor-person (self), doctor-patient, doctor-peer, and doctor-public (society). These relationships are very much interrelated and interdependent. Essential to the success of these relationships is humility that enables (i) vulnerability and openness to the need for growth; (ii) respectful partnerships with patients to achieve patient-centered outcomes; (iii) genuine collaboration with healthcare peers in the pursuit of beneficial patient-focused results; and (iv) willing acceptance of the obligations and responsibilities that come with the privileges granted to physicians by the wider society. All of these relationships are impacted by cultural influences and social and institutional (structural) forces. Thus, part of a medical trainee’s professional growth throughout medical school and during post-graduate training involves the development of an emerging understanding of these relationships; the various influences on them; and the acquisition of attitudes, knowledge, and skills that enable the trainee to successfully engage in these relationships. Doctoring IA is focused on students’ acquisition, development, and use of skills that enable thoughtful reflection, discussion and analysis of the sociocultural issues in medicine and their role in and influence on the relationships of the physician.  

Major health organizations have reported large gaps in LGBTQ health education. On average, medical students receive less than five hours of training on LGBTQ issues during medical school. Similarly, these organizations recognize the challenges faced by LGBTQ health professional students and the need to broaden education in the field. The Penn Medicine LGBTQ Health Program  promotes LGBTQ health education and provides mentorship and professional development for LGBTQ students, trainees, and faculty.

This optional seminar section of the Health Care Systems class allows interested medical students to delve more deeply into the specific issues faced by healthcare delivery systems in resource-limited countries through a series of lectures on Cuba and its national health system. Cuba, with its 50-year history of providing comprehensive, low-cost healthcare to millions of its citizens through a single-payer system, offers an ideal case study for examining a range of global health issues.

Furthermore, because the Cuban system differs so markedly from the American one, issues from physician reimbursement to pharmaceutical innovation are understood in a fundamentally different way, and studying the pros and cons of such a system will contribute to a broader understanding of global healthcare systems.

The course culminates in a weeklong trip to Havana, Cuba, where students gain firsthand exposure to healthcare delivery and biomedical research in Cuba and to how systemic factors are experienced in research laboratories, hospital wards, and primary care clinics. 

The goal of Physician Advocacy and Social Medicine (PASM) is to introduce students to issues of physician advocacy, healthcare policy, and social responsibility in medicine. These issues are explored through lectures focusing on physician work at the community, city, state, and national level. The seminar series strives to expose students to a variety of ways in which physicians can engage the larger community outside of the traditional medical practice, a topic not normally addressed in the medical curriculum.

PASM, which occurs in the fall, complements the spring seminar Practical Introduction to Social Services for Medical Students (PrISSMS). PrISSMS focuses on the distinct social issues not addressed in the medical school curriculum and social services available to address them. PASM focuses on ways in which physicians have been involved in addressing some of these issues.

Seminarios de Salud: Applied Topics in Health Care is aimed at exploring topics in Hispanic, immigrant, and minority health. The series is hosted by the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) at the Perelman School of Medicine. Through lectures centered around these issues, LMSA hopes to raise awareness, foster discussion, and ultimately improve the quality of and access to care in underserved communities. Past sessions have included "Breaking Barriers: Immigrant Women’s Health," "Immigrants and Mental Health," and "Does Living in the US Make Latinos Sick? The Case for Obesity and Diabetes."