UConn Magazine: An Urban Healthcare Bootcamp

For nearly two decades, this cross-disciplinary program has taught future “change agents” how to provide good, accessible health care for everyone

Petra Clark-Dufner at UConn John Dempsey Hospital in Farmington, Connecticut last December.

Petra Clark-Dufner at UConn John Dempsey Hospital in Farmington, Connecticut last December. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Petra Clark-Dufner ’81 MA is a force, calling on students rapid fire, but gently and with humor, cajoling answers from the health care professionals at this urban services bootcamp and keeping them on their toes. “Zach,” she says, pointing to a young man in the back. “Talk to me about the windows. In terms of your rotation, does any of this have relevance to what you just did? Talk to me.”

The physician assistant resident replies, “You need to assess how the patient is feeling. And with the windows, you can find out very quickly where you need to dive deeper.”

“Excellent,” Clark-Dufner says.

For nearly two decades, Clark-Dufner has been training students of health care as director of UConn’s Urban Service Track Scholars Program (UST), part of the Connecticut Area Health Education Center. She is now on her 17th cohort, of about 65 students each, in the two-year program that started in 2007. The broad mission is good, accessible health care for everyone. The students, who clearly adore Clark-Dufner, come from the schools of Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing, Pharmacy, and Social Work, as well as the Quinnipiac University physician assistant program.

“We have retreats, shared reading assignments, interprofessional learning communities, a student-alumni podcast series, and community-based clinical trainings and experiences,” Clark-Dufner says. “We look at things like health care financing, cultural humility, advocacy, health promotion, basic screenings, but more importantly, how to engage and talk to the community members and patients.”

Read on for more.