HEART-IM Clerkship

HEART-IM Clerkship

The Humanistic Elective in Activism, Reflective Transformation, and Integrative Medicine (HEART-IM), is a 4th year clerkship accredited by the University of New Mexico School of Medicine that will provide twenty-five (25) 4th year medical students demonstrating an aptitude and interest in integrative medicine, social justice and activism, intentional community building, humanism, and/or personal growth a unique and wonderful way to conclude their medical school career and prepare for residency.

Students will spend the month in a cooperative living and learning environment. The elective site is The Quaker Center in Ben Lomond, CA. Students will create a community with awareness of norms and rules, they will cook and clean with each other, teach and learn from each other, and experience communal living while expanding their knowledge on a number of important topics not addressed in medical school. Didactic and experiential lectures will be scheduled each day and led by physician leaders in their respective fields, in addition to time for self-reflection and self-care. Lectures will focus on the core curriculum of CAM, activism, community building, and personal reflection. Any clinical site visits will focus on examples of incorporating social justice and patient advocacy into clinical care.

Weekends will be free, with optional scheduled activities each weekend.

Rationale. Medical school, with its long hours and extensive demands, can leave young physicians with a wealth of knowledge, but an impoverished spirit. U.S. medical schools teach techniques and technologies in great detail, but they, in large part, ignore the human component of becoming a healer. Compassionate interviewing skills, relationship-centered care, cultural competency, and community and professional activism as physician leaders are underemphasized in favor of clinical training and basic science knowledge. Exit surveys of graduating medical students conducted by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) consistently demonstrate that students feel unprepared in many of these areas. Such an imbalance in training has a noticeable impact on patient care, patient satisfaction, malpractice claims, and compliance.

The American Medical Student Association (AMSA) enjoys a fifty-year reputation as a partner in coalitions based on the ideals of health as a basic human right, support of diversity and elimination of disparities in health, medical student well-being, and patient advocacy. This program is a continuation of these efforts to empower physicians-in-training to develop relationship-centered partnerships in health care, and impart the care to communities.


Through the program, participants will:

  • identify opportunities and cultivate skills of patient advocacy and community activism
  • increase awareness to the ideals of medical practice as a service to humanity;
  • create leadership skills that result in improved direct patient care during residency training and practice.
  • broaden the understanding of suffering and healing to include modalities and treatment approaches complementary to allopathic medicine;
  • cultivate conflict resolution skills and improve communication skills;
  • identify and heal personal conflicts to better improve their relationships with others;
  • Increase awareness of tools for self-care

HEART Program Description

Medicine as a social responsibility, activism:

  • A discussion on poverty, income inequality, globalization, and what these mean to our work as physicians.
  • A facilitated introduction health disparities domestically and globally. The discussion will include both individual prejudice and bias and the resultant health disparities along racial lines, as well as structural prejudice and bias.
  • A discussion of underserved patient populations, specifically addressing work opportunities, sustainability, CAM opportunities, and politics of working within these populations.
  • A facilitated introduction to creating and implementing community-based programs and practices.
  • An introduction to community organizing and coalition building with an emphasis on physicians taking the lead in this process.

Humanism in medicine, relationship-centered medicine:

  • Discussions and personal testimonials from exemplar physicians in compassionate patient care and effective and novel approaches to interdisciplinary team management.
  • Individual projects in poetry, prose, artwork, and music devoted to healing through creative arts.
  • Practical approaches to cultivate wellness in self, patients, and team members during residency and beyond.
  • Discussions on the use of the arts to develop and increase humanism in medicine.
  • Examination of the leadership structure in America and medicine with emphasis on physicians as community empowering and change agents for more humane leadership.

Complimentary and Alternative Medicine or Traditional Medicine modalities:

  • One day presentations of healing modalities (didactic lectures and experiential presentations), including homeopathy, nutrition, Ayuvedic medicine.
  • Student presentations of modalities of interest, personal use, and/or expertise that meet the goals of basic proficiency in responsible referral or collaborative treatment.
  • Lectures devoted to evidence based medicine (EBM) and its vitality to assessing efficacy in CAM and traditional medicine practices.
  • Hands-on and experiential workshops in healing modalities

Matriculating interns with skills in community building:

  • Initiating and instituting community-decided forms of mindful and open communication with follow-up community meetings.
  • Living, learning, and playing as a community with shared communal responsibilities. In addition to sharing cooking, cleaning, and all other community responsibilities, there will be opportunities to dance, play music, sing, create art, build, write, and relax together as a community or individually.
  • An introduction to community management and conflict resolution strategies.
  • Personal reflection and group discussion of spirituality as a personal and communal means of growth and development.
  • The development and maintenance of community norms based on respect, affirmation, and efficient time management.
  • Demonstrations of medicine as a way of life devoted to lifelong learning, teaching, and mentoring.