Community Health Primer (CHP)

Program Objectives

The goal of the Community Health Primer, designed with GW's Milken Institute School of Public Health Department of Prevention and Community Health, is to teach residents about our local community, give residents a foundation of knowledge in population health, provide experience practicing outpatient medicine in a community setting, and expose residents to new career possibilities.

This one-week elective combines didactics, seminars and site visits in community health settings throughout the Washington, DC area. It is offered twice per year. It is a required prerequesite for any resident who hopes to do a clinical elective rotation at a community health center site.

What We Do

Daily sessions are led by guest lecturers, including local physicians, experts from our university’s Milken Institute School of Public Health, Federal and local government employees, and employees of non-government organizations. Invited lecturers have expertise in local demographics and epidemiology, public health, medical problems of particular underserved communities, health policy, and advocacy.

In addition, site visits introduce residents to local community health center sites. Attendance at all sessions is mandatory.

On the last day of the elective, each resident delivers a brief presentation.

What past participants say

"Totally broadened my horizons about DC, the underserved in DC, and the opportunities out there for us."

"I truly felt like I learned so much about DC, community health centers, and public health infrastructure."

"Everyone in residency should do this."

"The Community Health elective was one of my favorite months at GW! Even though I ultimately pursued a career in inpatient medicine, I really enjoyed learning more about public health and the outpatient resources available in the DC metro area. I believe that I can better care for my patients inside the hospital now that I know what resources are available to them once they are discharged. I particularly enjoyed my experience at the DC Department of Health. I truly believe that EVERY resident should do this elective as it is a fantastic experience."


Sample Lecture Topics

(exact topics and lecturers may vary in each cycle)

  • DC Demographics and Epidemiology. (Dr. John Davies-Cole, DC Department of Health)
  • Federal Public Health Infrastructure (Dr. Jillian Catalanotti)
  • Federally Qualified Health Centers (Dr. Jillian Catalanotti)
  • Social Determinants of Health (Dr. David Popiel)
  • DC’s Local Health System (Dr. Pierre Vigilance, Former Director, DC Dept of Health)
  • Community-Oriented Primary Care (Dr. Cara Lichtenstein, Children’s Nat’l Health System)
  • Issues in Rural Health Care (Dr. Elizabeth Gray. *Skyped from rural Texas.*)
  • Health Care in the DC Jail (Dr. Nader Marzban, DC Dept of Corrections)
  • Federal Physician Recruitment Programs (Dr. B.P.Walker)
  • Health Concerns of LGBT Communities (Dr. Ray Martins, Whitman-Walker Health)
  • A Local Community Health Center (Dr. Andrea Anderson, Upper Cardozo,Unity Health Care, Inc.)
  • Directing a Community Health Center (Dr. Randi Abramson, Bread for the City)
  • Healthcare for the Homebound (Dr. Ernest Brown, Health Care for the Homebound)
  • Health Care for the Homeless (Dr. Catherine Crosland, Unity Health Care, Inc.)
  • Adolescent Health (Dr. Krishna Upadhya, Georgetown University Dept of Pediatrics)
  • Health Disparities (Monica Ruiz, PhD. Dept of Prevention and Community Health)
  • Advocacy (Caroline Sparks, PhD. Dept of Prevention and Community Health)


Sign Up

The Community Health Primer is available to all GW Internal Medicine residents. The rotation is offered twice per academic year – in the Fall and in the Spring.

Participants must be scheduled for Elective time in order to sign up for this rotation, and should sign-up by requesting the Community Health Primer from the Chief Residents at the time resident schedules are made. You may not be on an overnight shift leading into this elective, nor may you have nightfloat or disaster shifts during the elective.


Potential community-based clinic sites available for rotations after taking CHP

  • Washington, DC Department of Health Tuberculosis Control Program
  • Washington, DC Department of Health STD Control Program
  • Whitman-Walker Health (focus on LGBT and HIV care)
  • Homeless Health, Unity Health Care Inc.
  • Upper Cardozo Medical Center, Unity Health Care Inc. (Spanish speaking residents only)
  • Holy Cross Hospital Health Center (focus on uninsured Maryland residents, in Silver Spring, Maryland)
  • Molina Healthcare of Virginia - Bailey’s Health Center (focus on uninsured Virginia residents, in Falls Church, Virginia)
  • Mary’s Center for Maternal and Child Health (Spanish speaking residents only)
  • Children’s National Health System Adolescent Health Clinic
  • GW University Student Health Center


Contact Dr. David Popiel in the Division of General Internal Medicine for more information.