Promoting Social Justice in Medical Education

A profile of Dean Linda Brubaker, MD, MS, Dean and Chief Diversity Officer, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine

Professor Linda Brubaker brings an enthusiasm for medical education, social justice, and her medical specialty fields of female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery (urogynecology) to her several roles at Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine (SSOM). As a medical scholar, researcher, educator, journal editor, and clinician who sees patients every week, author of nearly 300 journal articles and book chapters, and principal investigator on five federally-funded research grants, she is uniquely suited to leading a medical school in the application of Jesuit educational values…

Brubaker observes that applying the concepts of faith, reason, and justice to higher education is particularly appropriate for medical education, where students may be responsible for their future patients’ lives. Whereas reason forms the basis for the medical science that students are learning, faith can inspire a view of life as sacred, and Loyola’s mission values of equity and integrity are traits conducive to the development of highly effective and compassionate physicians.

Brubaker believes that application of Jesuit values to medical education, medical practice, and patient care, can inform both the medical school’s educational philosophy and curriculum and engenders attitudes promoting compassionate medical practice and patient care.  Social justice is woven throughout the SSOM’s programs but is most evident in the patient-centered medical curriculum. While western medicine increasingly incorporates a “holistic” approach to treatment by considering issues of lifestyle in patient care, the SSOM curriculum also incorporates faith via the Jesuit perspective of “God in all things” that includes the patient. SSOM students are taught to be aware of a patient’s spirituality and to incorporate this into treatment where possible, thereby truly treating the “whole person” even beyond this contemporary concept. Brubaker believes that most SSOM students are aware that their education at Stritch is different from that of most other medical schools, and that this is why the medical school received nearly 11,000 applications last year.  She wants medical students to understand that “it is very important to treat patients with the dignity and care that God would want” as a crucial part of their medical education and the practice of the most compassionate patient care.

Brubaker also brings a passion to her role as SSOM Chief Diversity Officer. From a social justice perspective, she believes that diversity is critically important to the SSOM at all levels (faculty, residents, and fellows) but especially for the student population, and notes that the 2015 class is the most diverse ever admitted. While she largely credits Professor Mark Kuczewski of the Neiswanger Institute for Bioethics (also profiled here, see page 11), she was also critically involved in the effort to make SSOM the first U.S. medical school to admit undocumented students known as “Dreamers” (children brought to the U.S. by undocumented immigrant parents and protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals [DACA] program) in 2012. She worked with Loyola’s senior administration and Board of Trustees to create financial aid packages for Dreamer applicants comparable to those of other students (Dreamer students are ineligible for federal aid).  Loyola partnered with Trinity Health (the parent corporation of Loyola University Health System) and the Illinois Finance Authority to design loan programs for these students, typically in exchange for a promise of future medical practice for underserved populations.  She feels strongly that SSOM graduates have an obligation to the larger community in providing services to a diverse group of patients, especially those with limited health care access, i.e., minorities and the economically disadvantaged, which requires effort and outreach.

Brubaker combines her faith, medical training, scientific reasoning, acute sense of social justice, and commitment to excellence in medical education and patient care in her dedication to her professional roles at Loyola and to furthering the University’s mission.  Brubaker summarizes her philosophy resolutely: “I feel it is my moral obligation to incorporate justice into my research, teaching, and practice.”

brubaker-b
Linda Brubaker, MD, MS
Dean and Chief Diversity Officer at the Stritch School of Medicine.

This profile is reprinted courtesy of Endeavors, a publication of the Office of Research Services, Loyola University Chicago.
Visit the full issue on Faith, Reason, and Justice.

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