College of Medicine Appoints Thread Leaders to Enhance Medical Student Curriculum

The University of Kentucky College of Medicine is committed to enhancing its medical school curriculum and ensuring students are introduced to a variety of important topics as they pursue their medical education. It is with these goals in mind that the UK College of Medicine is excited to announce a new curricular initiative.

The college has appointed three faculty members to lead newly created curricular threads, the Health Equity and Advocacy Thread and the Health System Science Thread. Through these new positions, these individuals will collaborate with course directors, clerkship directors, curriculum deans, and other faculty and staff to establish learning objectives, instructional strategies, and assessment methods for their designated topics.

These curricular threads will aim to help students effectively advocate for their individual patients and their communities and prepare students to enter the workforce through recognition of today’s complex health care networks.

Leading the Health Equity and Advocacy Thread will be Anita Fernander, PhD, associate professor of behavioral science. Anna Maria South, MD, of the department of internal medicine will serve as assistant thread leader. Andrew Harris, MD, of the department of urology will serve as the thread leader of the Health System Science Thread. 

“Creating curricular threads will improve continuity and integration of critical content throughout the entirety of the undergraduate medical school curriculum for topics that are not the primary focus of a particular course or clerkship but are fundamental to the practice of medicine,” Andres Ayoob, MD, associate dean for curriculum and assessment, said. “Our thread leaders not only bring the requisite knowledge to create a curriculum, but more importantly, they bring the hands-on experience and passion required to meaningfully engage students and highlight the value of this content in providing effective care for patients.”

The Health Equity and Advocacy Thread will address the political and social determinants of health that contribute to health care disparities such as race and ethnicity, sex, sexual identity, disability, geographic location, and socioeconomic status. The thread will examine best practices for individual health care providers, institutions, and organizations to achieve health equity using approaches that mitigate individual and system-level biases.

The Health System Science Thread will address what is considered the “third pillar” of medical education, the practice of improving quality, costs, and outcomes of health care delivery within health care systems. This thread will address patient safety, quality improvement, population and public health, systems-thinking, and evidence-based medicine. 

Dr. Fernander, along with serving as associate professor, is director of diversity and inclusion for the department of behavioral science. Her primary areas of research include the impact of race-related stress, the political and social determinants of health, and health inequities among African Americans. She is founder and chair of Black Boys and Men in Medicine (BBAMM), a mentorship pipeline program for Black males from kindergarten through medical residency to address the crises of the underrepresentation of Black men in medicine.

Dr. Harris is an assistant professor of urology with specialties in safety and quality improvement, robotic surgery, robotic oncologic surgery, and complex stone surgery. He is a graduate of the UK College of Medicine and returned to UK for his fellowship, later completing his graduate certificate in improving health care value with an emphasis in quality improvement and patient safety.

Dr. South is an assistant professor in the department of internal medicine and division of hospital medicine with additional work in addiction medicine consulting and education services. She also serves as Salvation Army Clinic preceptor, acting internship attending, and teaching team attending. She completed her residency in internal medicine at UK.