Over the years, BUATP has received suggestions to create spaces in which third year medical students can openly and productively discuss their clinical experiences. Because it is the first time that students are immersed in the clinical environment, the third year is one during which many students feel they could benefit from more structured and productive reflection. Especially for advocacy-oriented students, it can become disempowering to constantly witness the end-results of structural and systemic inequities manifested in human suffering, seemingly to no end.

SPA-3 is a new free-time, longitudinal enrichment opportunity for third year medical students that focuses on personal narrative development. This course, led by fourth year BUATP leaders, encourages third year clerkship students to discuss advocacy interests and opportunities they are experiencing on the wards. Four two-hour sessions are spread throughout the academic year and consist of assigned readings, facilitated discussions, and writing exercises.

Based on the values-based leadership approach of Marshall Ganz of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, the curriculum’s guiding principles are the following:

  1. Leadership grows out of a conviction of what you believe and why. Leaders affect change because they are clear about their values which guide their words and actions;
  2. Community voice must drive the actions of leaders who hope to use their roles as physicians to work towards social justice;
  3. Leaders grow when they strike a balance between action and reflection. We must be mindful about what we are doing and why, and we must challenge each other to think through our actions and the degree to which they align with our values.