The CDC states that "Health equity is achieved when every person has the opportunity to attain his or her full health potential 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 VUSM 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: 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: The National Opioid Crisis
  • AE: Global Health
  • AE: Contagion of Distress - How Social Determinants, Illness Experience, and Resiliency affect Mental 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 the Office of Health Equity at

Frequently Asked Questions