MADISON, Wis. — The University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health will offer a new course to teach future doctors how to treat a growing prison population and former convicts once they are released.
The new course will be offered this fall, Wisconsin Public Radio reported. The university is recruiting up to 20 students for the class that will teach students about the trauma people who are incarcerated experience before, during and after serving their sentence.
"We know they have more health care problems than the general population," said Robert Striker, an infectious disease specialist with the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health. "We know that diseases that (current or former inmates) have are not necessarily going to stay with them because germs don't respect the boundaries of our legal system."
Striker, who helps the state Department of Corrections treat conditions like hepatitis C and HIV, is behind the course. He's working with the Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development, a Madison-based nonprofit organization that works to address both social and justice issues affecting African-Americans in the greater Madison community.
Nehemiah is also collaborating with medical school educators, the Department of Corrections and former prisoners to try and address how both racial disparities and the re-entry of prisoners into society affects health care practices.
"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, where the good things are and where the challenges are so that they can deliver care in a more culturally responsive way," said Karen Reece, director of research and program evaluation at Nehemiah.
The course will focus on the importance of delivering quality care to current and former inmates. Tours of jails and prisons are also being planned. Students will be able to shadow medical professionals working in the correctional system.