Scholarly Concentration in Service Learning (SCISL)

Coordinator: Amy McFarland, MPH [Reno]

What is Service Learning?

"Service-learning is a structured learning experience that combines community service with preparation and reflection. Students engaged in service-learning provide community service in response to community-identified concerns and learn about the context in which service is provided, the connection between their service and their academic coursework, and their roles as citizens." (Community Campus Partnerships in Health)

"Service learning demands that students understand the agency they are working with–its mission, philosophy, assumptions, culture and activities–and especially the lives of the people it serves. Most importantly, it is characterized by a relationship of a partnership: the student learns from the service agency and from the community and in return gives energy, intelligence, commitment, time and skills to address community needs." (Physicians in Community: Syllabus & Student Guide. Miller, L. Pierre. C. Urion, S., 2006)

What is the timeline for the SCISL?

Medical Student Year 1

  • January: The student indicates interest in the program to the program coordinators. The student meets with a mentor to discuss interests in areas of service learning.
  • February/March: The mentor identifies a university department or community organization/resource aligned with the student's interest and forms a partnership. Between Medical Student Year 1 and Medical Student Year 2:
  • June/July (Summer Break): The student performs a four-week experience within the university system or at a community organization, including a health needs assessment (student may create a new one or participate in one already in existence), and initiates an action plan. Meetings with the student and mentor occur at least on a weekly basis, to review student reflections. The student completes online modules in environmental health sciences and biostatistics.

Medical Student Year 2

  • The student will act as a supplemental instruction leader in biostatistics or a related community health topic during the community medicine portions of the curriculum, i.e.: journal club group facilitator, co-teach a section on an appropriate area.

Medical Student Year 3

  • Longitudinal: The student will engage in learning about community health resources during the third year, particularly during the family medicine clerkship, with participation in the Community Oriented Primary Care Project. The student may continue to be involved within the university or community organization during this year, schedule permitting. The student will meet with his/her mentor once each semester to discuss current work and future plans for the project.

Medical Student Year 4

  • 4-week elective: The student follows up on the response to the action plan, provides a report of findings, and possibly develops new project for another student. Longitudinal execution of the study plan is emphasized to allow for continuity of the project with the participation of other students over time.



  • Provide a rigorous, in-depth scholarly experience
  • Experience satisfaction with scholastic activity/research experience

Mentoring/career development

  • Provide experience/environment that fosters interest in service learning and public health
  • Produce students who can function as independent investigators

Knowledge/skill development

  • Apply principles of service learning to solve community health problems
  • Communicate ideas/results in a well-written report and presentation


  1. Community Health Education: Conduct health needs assessments at both the individual and community level, including analysis of social, political and bureaucratic barriers that impede health promotion efforts.
  2. Epidemiology: Describe a public health problem in terms of magnitude, person, time and place.
  3. Environmental Health Sciences: Explain the influence of environmental factors on the health of the public.
  4. Biostatistics: Interpret results of statistical analyses found in public health studies.
  5. Health Policy and Management: Demonstrate a mastery of oral and written communication skills.

Following satisfactory program completion, the student will receive a Scholarly Concentration Award in Service Learning at the Awards Ceremony during graduation week.