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Women Leading Healthy Change: A Reciprocal Learning Experience for Women in the Sex Trade and Medical Students

  • Weber, Lindsey Catherine1
  • Ortega, Joanna Claire1
  • Bastea, Silvia1
  • Robitz, Rachel A.2
  • Mumma, Bryn Elissa3
  • 1 Third-Year Medical Student, University of California, Davis, School of Medicine
  • 2 s, School of Medicine
  • 3 Associate Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of California, Davis, School of Medicine
Published Article
MedEdPORTAL : the Journal of Teaching and Learning Resources
Association of American Medical Colleges
Publication Date
May 12, 2021
DOI: 10.15766/mep_2374-8265.11154
PMID: 34041359
PMCID: PMC8113279
PubMed Central
  • Original Publication


Introduction Service learning can teach medical students about the social determinants of health and prepare them to better serve marginalized populations, while people in the sex trade can serve as effective educators for their peers and health professions trainees. However, service-learning projects involving medical students and people in the sex trade are currently rare. Methods We modified a curriculum from an author's prior institution to provide a unique service-learning experience for medical students and peer health education for women in the sex trade in a new city and new context. Medical students partnered with a local community organization to implement a 10-week course on physical and mental health for women in the sex trade. Coled by a medical student and a woman who had utilized the community partner's services, the course's instructional methods included in-class demonstrations, group discussion, games, and worksheets. Results Ten women participated in the course, and six medical students facilitated its implementation. The participants demonstrated increased knowledge in physical and mental health topics and reported being more comfortable speaking with health care providers. The coleaders developed skills and confidence to pursue additional leadership opportunities. The medical student coleader gained a better understanding of addiction and was more prepared to work with patients with substance use disorders. Discussion This mutual learning experience was a valuable health education opportunity for a local underserved community and helped medical students understand the barriers women in the sex trade face when seeking health care and how physicians can better meet their needs.

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