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The Role of Social Determinants in Health Care: Student Reflections on Patient Needs, Community Resources, and Interprofessional Development


McKinley Thomas ,

Georgia Southern University, US
About McKinley
Dr. Thomas received his B.S. and M.Ed. in Community Health Education from Georgia College and State University and an Ed.D. from the University of Tennessee with a collateral interest in Curriculum and Instruction and concentration in research and statistics. He has held numerous academic positions to include: Georgia College and State University, University of Tennessee, University of South Caroline, Augusta State University, Medical College of Georgia, Mercer University, and Georgia Southern University. Dr. Thomas is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Health Sciences and Kinesiology where he serves on the undergraduate faculty teaching numerous courses including epidemiology, death and dying, and research methods. He is also the Coordinator of the Bachelor of Health Science Degree Program and Coordinator of the Generalist Concentration in Health Science. His research interests include 1) interprofessional education and curriculum development, 2) pedestrian safety and mortality, 3) geographic information systems in public health, 4) forecasting and trend analysis of mortality data, and 5) drug use among vulnerable road users. In 2012, Dr. Thomas was named a Governor’s Teaching Fellow and is Founding Editor of the Journal of the Georgia Public Health Association.
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Paula Tillman,

Georgia Southern University, US
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Janet Buelow

Georgia Southern University, US
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BACKGROUND Teaching emerging health care professionals the importance of addressing social determinants of health is an important step toward equitable care. To this end, students need both an understanding of the narrative of those living with limited healthcare access and the opportunity to reflect upon how experiential learning impacts their views on health care services and professional development. PURPOSE The purpose of the study was to assess experiential self-reflections among health professions students after participating in an interprofessional, community-based program designed to provide much-needed health care to vulnerable populations. METHODS After participation, students provided reflections regarding their views on 1) individuals receiving care, 2) community needs and resources, and 3) their own interprofessional growth. A qualitative, iterative process was used to identify emergent themes. RESULTS Themes specific to both participants and community resources centered on poor access to care, dental and vision needs, and limited awareness of available resources. Those specific to students’ interprofessional experience and professional growth include patient outcomes, understanding community characteristics, communication skills, and an appreciation of interprofessional, multi-level delivery of services. CONCLUSIONS Consideration of social determinants of care is an important conduit toward clarifying one’s views of vulnerable populations and as a means of enhancing professional growth and development.
How to Cite: Thomas, M., Tillman, P. and Buelow, J., 2020. The Role of Social Determinants in Health Care: Student Reflections on Patient Needs, Community Resources, and Interprofessional Development. Health, Interprofessional Practice and Education, 4(1), p.eP2113. DOI:
Published on 04 Sep 2020.
Peer Reviewed


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