Original Publication
Open Access

What Patients Bring to the Medical Encounter? Dealing with the Whole Patient

Published: July 26, 2010 | 10.15766/mep_2374-8265.8068

Included in this publication:

  • Student Evaluation.doc
  • Ms Vlas.docx

To view all publication components, extract (i.e., unzip) them from the downloaded .zip file.

Editor's Note: This publication predates our implementation of the Educational Summary Report in 2016 and thus displays a different format than newer publications.


Introduction: The overall objective of this case is to provide students with an opportunity to focus on the important aspects of a patient’s social history and how it relates to the current medical issues at hand. In this session we focus on their skills in obtaining adequate and useful information about the social context of a patient with limited English proficiency in the medical interview. Methods: The case contains three components. Prior to the session students complete a series or required readings and complete a written assignment to promote self-directed learning and reflection in the area of social determinants of health. This assignment is then submitted to the facilitator for review. Once the session begins the students explore the case of Ms. Vlas, a theoretical patient. Finally the students discuss patient follow-up, again in small groups. Results: Second-year medical students found the case moderately valuable. Students were comfortable discussing their reactions to the cases and the topics associated with Ms. Vlas in the small-group setting. Discussion: This has been found to help medical students understand the role physicians have in caring for patients with limited English proficiency.

Educational Objectives

By the end of this session, learners will be able to:

  1. Describe health data with in immigration context.
  2. Discuss social determinants on health.
  3. Identify how education, literacy, and social economic status might impact health.
  4. Assess the patient’s ability to read and understand information/instructions.
  5. Assess how finances and/or insurance influence health care and adherence.
  6. Understand the importance of physician-patient negotiation.
  7. Acknowledge and enhance patient adherence with communication skills.
  8. Develop communication, interaction, and interviewing skills.
  9. Recognize identified stressors in patient’s life.

Author Information

  • Monica Lypson, MD: University of Michigan Medical School
  • Rachel Perlman, MD: University of Michigan
  • Caren Stalburg, MD: University of Michigan
  • Christa Johnston, MD: Maricopa Integrated Health System
  • Robert Lash, MD: University of Michigan
  • Paula Ross, MA: University of Michigan

None to report.

None to report.


Lypson M, Perlman R, Stalburg C, Johnston C, Lash R, Ross P. What patients bring to the medical encounter? Dealing with the whole patient. MedEdPORTAL. 2010;6:8068. https://doi.org/10.15766/mep_2374-8265.8068