Begun in 2005 as “The Spectrum of Physician Advocacy,” SPA-1 is a student-led, faculty-supported, 10-session classroom enrichment opportunity offered every spring that serves as the entry to the BUATP. The course offers a broad overview of the many roles of the physician advocate and focuses on conveying an understanding of the social determinants of health and equity. Students will deepen their knowledge of the interplay between social factors and health and explore how to work as a healthcare provider to uncouple disadvantage from adverse health outcomes. This class will connect students to opportunities for further development of advocacy/health-services research skills and be the basis for SPA-2 in the second year, as well as third- and fourth-year BUATP curricula.

Led by second year BUATP student leaders, the first half of each session is usually dedicated to peer-led, evidence-based didactics, discussions, and activities, while the second half usually features a medical or nonmedical speaker with expertise in the topic of interest. Recent topics covered include:

  • Housing
  • Refugee and Immigrant Health
  • Substance Use
  • Incarceration
  • Violence
  • Disability
  • LGBTQ+ Health
  • Race

Eligibility: Any BU Medical, Dental, or Physician Assistant student is eligible to participate in this class. A short application for enrollment is released and due the preceding December.

Requirements: The course requirements include attendance of 7/8 sessions and completion of a short advocacy project.
Schedule: A total of approximately ten two-hour sessions over three months. Classes are generally held weekly, from 4:30-6:30 PM.

For years, we collected data on students participating in SPA-1. Our data support the benefits of a student-led, faculty-mentored course on the social determinants of health. We were awarded the Best Student Abstract at the 2016 McCahan Education Day at Boston University Medical Center (click here for abstract and oral presentation powerpoint) and presented a poster at the 2016 AAMC Annual Meeting (click here for abstract and poster).