Medical Students Focus on Caring for Incarcerated Patients

Some of the most challenging clinical care takes place behind bars


To help address the unique and complex healthcare needs of Wisconsin’s 23,000 incarcerated people, the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health is offering a new course for medical students about caring for patients during and after imprisonment.

“These are not easy jobs,” says Dr. Robert Striker of UW-Madison, who helped create the course. “But if you think about the impact a health care provider can have on a lot of ‘worried well’ versus people who have a lot of challenges—medical and otherwise—you feel like this is an important area where if you are called to it, it’s a good place to be.”

The course tackles the topics that make providing care for incarcerated people unique, such as racial disparities in Wisconsin prisons, restricted access to patients, and special communication needs after patients are released. For example, a patient who leaves prison after two decades might have trouble using MyChart or even answering phone calls and emails from the care team.

“We put our heads together and realized that health care providers in the criminal justice system need to have a clear understanding of how the system works,” says Dr. Karen Reece of the Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development, a nonprofit partnering with UW-Madison to design the course. That way, future doctors “can deliver care in a more culturally responsive way.”

Read the full article on Wisconsin Public Radio.