Community-Based Learning in Medicine


In 1995, Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) developed and implemented a program of service-learning that provided medical and nursing students with the knowledge and skills to advance community health priorities. GUMC was awarded a grant from the Health Professions Schools in Service to the Nation (HPSISN) to fund its Service-Learning Program while it was in its infancy. As a result of this funding, the program became a part of a national demonstration project. HPSISN funding has ended, but the Community Health Division in the Department of Family Medicine continues to support the Service-Learning Program for all first-year medical students at Georgetown University School of Medicine.

In 2006, Service-Learning became a required part of the Introduction to Health Care course. 

With the curriculum reform in 2009, Service-Learning became an individual module and in 2017, it changed its name to Community-Based Learning (CBL). 


Service-Learning is a method of experiential learning. Health professions students meet community health needs while developing their own ability to understand and address the complex health challenges they will encounter in patient care. In groups of six to ten, students are assigned to a community site, such as a church, school, shelter, non-profit organization, or clinic. Over several sessions, students implement a community health education, screening, or outreach project under the direction of GUMC faculty members from various departments.  These faculty members serve as Team Leaders and provide ongoing support to the students in their Service-Learning teams.  Team Leader responsibilities include:
   1) supervising and evaluating the students’ program planning, teamwork, and professionalism
   2) participating in the community project to model the health professional’s role in community settings
   3) leading small group discussions and training sessions with students.   


Community Partners represent participating agencies and serve as the liaisons between community sites and the Program Office. They orient students to communities and theirs residents, supervise student teams while on-site, and work with Faculty Team Leaders.


CBL projects focus on preventable causes of premature morbidity and mortality throughout Washington, D.C. Projects include: In-home maternal and child health education support for expectant mothers and mothers of pre-schoolers; School-based health education; After-school projects to prevent high-risk health behaviors among adolescents; Community health outreach projects; and Health promotion activities for the elderly.