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Urban Medicine (UMED) Program – UI Health

Updated: 10/3/23


The UMed course provides a four-year longitudinal curriculum, a continuous thread that integrates core principles of public and population health with direct participation in community-based health education, mentorship, and/or research at local organizations that serve individuals faced with disinvestment. It is conceptually informed by the Experiential Learning Theory which posits that learning is most effective through hands-on experiences. The course faculty utilize a mixed methods approach to assess the students and to evaluate effectiveness of the course components.

Semesters during which course will be offered:

Throughout all four years of medical school, every student in the UMed program participates in: A Longitudinal Community Rotation (LCR) project plus final LCR capstone (2 credits), didactic seminars in M1 and M2 (2 credits); an online policy and advocacy course in M3 (1 credit) and a one-week, intensive policy and advocacy forum in M4 year (1 credit), which comprises a total of 6 credit hours.


Students are selected through a competitive application process that is based on the entirety of the applicant’s AMCAS application, supplemental essay questions and an interview. Acceptance to the UMed program is contingent upon admission to UICollege of Medicine campuses that offer the UMed Program.


Medical school graduates in the United States have historically been underprepared to address the health care inequities found in urban, underserved communities. The University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine developed the UMed program in 2005 in order to prepare students for roles that impact on healthcare in underserved communities: as advocate, researcher, policy-maker and culturally-competent practitioner.

Relationship to the overall curriculum:

The course is consistent with the active learning principles infused into the current curriculum and emphasizes prior preparation, self-directed learning, active participation, and group collaboration. In addition UMed emphasizes projects that are community-informed and community-responsive. UMed students produce tangible work products in teams that relate to the needs of the communities that they serve and receive formative and summative feedback throughout the curriculum from UMed faculty, staff and community mentors. The UMed curriculum compliments the focus on individual health and disease in the general curriculum with education, awareness and skill building around population health and structural determinants of health.


The four main curricular threads of the UMed Program are:

  1. Disparities in healthcare access and outcomes
  2. Community engagement
  3. Diversity and intercultural communication
  4. Policy and advocacy

By the end of UMed, students will be able to do the following in the above competencies:

  1. List specific examples of how the social determinants of health contribute to health disparities in urban settings, such as Chicago;
  2. Identify the needs of a local community by conducting an assessment that utilizes qualitative and quantitative data, and is supplemented by community-member input;
  3. Develop skills to address the needs of marginalized patients, including, but not limited to, cross-cultural clinical skills, practicing trauma informed care, knowledge of their use of complementary and alternative medicines, and adapting medical jargon to meet their level of health literacy;
  4. Demonstrate competency in policy and advocacy through the application of advocacy tools and direct engagement with community leaders and local decision makers.


The course spans the entire 4 years as a longitudinal learning community experience and includes in person, virtual, and/or hybrid seminars, workshops, and intensive training.


Course is Pass/Fail. Students are expected to attend all UMed seminars and participate in community projects and service-learning experiences. Students are allowed one unexcused absence per semester. In the event that a student is struggling to meet the requirements of the general curriculum and/or fail to attend UMed seminar(s), faculty meet with the student and come up with a plan in order to ensure they can focus their time on passing mandatory exams. Students may leave the program and receive credit for work completed, as described above, prior to the M4 year. A grade of “Fail” is determined based on attendance over the 4 years and completion of the final capstone.  Consideration of Fail would be made on an individual basis after a grace period of probation and remediation.

Minimum/maximum students accepted: 

18-21 students each year

Participating Faculty:

Joanna Michel PhD (Director), oversees the curriculum, provides direct instruction, and serves as primary faculty mentor. Several guest faculty from within the UIC faculty roster (School of Medicine, School of Public Health, Allied Health Sciences) as well as host faculty from outside universities and community leaders contribute during all 4 years of the curriculum. UMed Community Site Mentors at each partner site provide a critical link to underserved communities and educate students on community strengths, challenges, and health care needs.

Administrative Information Heading link

  • Program Number

    CELE 289

  • Program Contacts

    Director: Joanna Michel, PhD
    Address: University of Illinois at Chicago, Department of Medical Education.
    Telephone: 312-996-6920

  • Program Information

    Duration of Elective: 4 years (Longitudinal)
    Night Call: none
    Weekends: dependent on project
    # of Students Accepted: 18-21/year
    Housestaff Used as Faculty: No
    Total Hours /Week: variable due to longitudinal nature
    Number of hours per week, and Lectures/Conferences/Faculty Contact: Variable
    Laboratory: none
    Independent Study: component of every instructional activity
    Inpatient: Outpatient: No patient experience required