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Health Equity

The CDC states that “Health equity is achieved when every person has the opportunity to attain his or her full health potential and no one is disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of social position or other socially determined circumstances.” ( A growing, critical, and specific body of knowledge elucidates the complex underpinnings of health equity, which include both upstream and downstream factors. Socioeconomic (upstream) factors are shaped by the structures, systems, environments, politics, policies, and distribution of money, power, and resources at global, national, and local levels. Individual (downstream) factors include behavior, lifestyle, gender, identity, genetics, family history, and use of/access to health care.

If society is to make progress toward achieving health equity, a cadre of physician leaders must be cultivated that understands these factors and forces, and possesses skills to intervene at the individual, system, and/or community level to impact meaningful change. The VUSM Certificate in Health Equity is offered for students who wish to deepen their knowledge and expertise in order to embark on leadership careers in this area.


The Certificate in Health Equity requires the following course work (all required courses are offered through the School of Medicine):

1. Foundations in Health Equity (FHE) I & II

  • FHE I: Two-week course covering foundational concepts and skills offered twice each year during the second year of medical school.
  • FHE II: Monthly evening sessions during Immersion Phase during which students work with faculty facilitators to apply foundational concepts in discussing patients they encounter in health care settings.

2. Complete at least two additional courses in health equity and related disciplines. The following courses count toward this requirement:

  • ACE Panel-based Care in a Working-Learning Health System (WLHS)
  • ACE: Population Health in a WLHS
  • ACE Shade Tree Elective
  • ACE: Spanish Language Peds Clinic
  • ACE: Primary Care if taken at community-based locations, such as Siloam, Matthew Walker, and Neighborhood Health
  • ISC: Community Healthcare—Patients, Populations, and Systems of Care
  • ISC: Global Health
  • ISC: Health Systems Science in a Working-Learning Health System
  • ISC: The Opioid Epidemic (in development)
  • AE: Global Health

3. Immersion Experience in Health Equity (minimum two months in length):

  • Mentored experience with individualized learning goals
  • May be related to clinical care, research, public health, or community health
  • Students may use required research immersion blocks to satisfy this requirement
  • Projects can be used to satisfy Foundations of Healthcare Delivery (FHD) Quality Improvement requirement
  • (requires FHD course director approval)


For additional information on the Graduate Certificate in Health Equity, please contact:

Consuelo H. Wilkins, MD, MSCI
Certificate Director
Vice President for Health Equity, Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Executive Director, Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance

Elisa Corinne Friedman, MS
Assistant Vice President, Community and Population Health
Office of Health Equity, Vanderbilt University Medical Center

529 Light Hall
2215 Garland Avenue
Nashville, TN 37232-0147