Difficulties caring for patients in the context of family and community stem from problems of power and vulnerability. Patients are disempowered in relation to physicians and to the medical care system. Physicians are disempowered in their ability to provide comprehensive relationship-centered care to individuals and families because of economic constraints on medical care and limits on continuity of care. Individual patients are also vulnerable to abuses of power within their families because of physical and sexual abuse; the recognition of such abuses and appropriate interventions for them requires awareness of the gender ideology that underlies interpersonal abuses of power. Families and communities can be disempowered because of vulnerabilities related to race, ethnicity, poverty, and homelessness. The additive effects of these vulnerabilities have created health disparities that are a hallmark of inequities in our country's medical system. Opportunities to teach students to recognize and address these disparities abound within medical education. Participatory training and educational action projects can prepare learners to lead us toward a more just and egalitarian medical system with the potential to change the context of family and community in which we care for patients. However, systematic commitment from educational programs is necessary to produce activated clinicians, teachers, and researchers to achieve these changes.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/lucy_candib/59/