LAS CRUCES – New Mexico State University professors in anthropology and social work are collaborating with Memorial Medical Center on a project to train medical residents with an “upstream” focus on the circumstances that cause disease.

Mary Alice Scott, NMSU professor and medical anthropologist, and Ivan de la Rosa, NMSU social work professor, are working with Dr. John Andazola, the family medicine residency program director at Memorial Medical Center. The collaboration entails implementing a longitudinal curriculum in social medicine that is framed by a concept called “structural competency,” the capacity for health care professionals to recognize and respond to health and illness as the “downstream” consequences of broad social, political and economic structures.

“It has been said that a person’s zip code has a greater impact on their health than does their genetic code,” Dr. Andazola said. “A person’s behaviors and social environment have five times the impact on their health than does their genetics. Therefore, for physicians to be most effective in their communities they must understand the social constructs that cause illness and health disparities in the community.”