The Commitment to Underserved People (CUP) program at the COM is a student-developed and student-directed co-curricular program. Begun in 1979, CUP provides students with clinical and teaching opportunities working with medically underserved and resource-poor populations.
From its modest beginnings with a single CUP clinic serving a sizeable refugee population, many of whom were political refugees from Central America, CUP has evolved into a substantial program in which, since 1996, over 90% of all students in the first two years of medical school participate. Participation in CUP helps students learn about community service and enables the students to enhance their clinical and teaching skills. Through this work students learn the impact of socioeconomic status on access to health care, and the effect of culture on health.
In order for students to participate in CUP programs, clinical skill training is required of all students who volunteer at any program where clinical care is provided. This training includes an online module and “hands-on” training for vaccine administration (intradermal, subcutaneous, and intramuscular), phlebotomy, vital signs, and using the otoscope/ophthalmoscope. Additional training per program is required, providing the medical students with information on the population being served, the teaching materials (if applicable) and the procedures for participating in that specific program.
Students can earn elective credit through participation in CUP. Students who contribute 45 to 90 hours of service during Pre-Clerkship can earn one to two units of credit for the elective CUP I; credit earned in CUP I is recorded on the student’s transcript, but may not be applied to meet graduation requirements. Similarly, students may earn one to two units of elective credit during their Clerkship and Transition to Residency phases in CUP II; this credit may be applied to meet graduation requirements. To receive credit for CUP I or II, the students must complete another 45-90 hours of service, enroll in the elective and submit a five-page reflective paper on their experiences in CUP. Students also may qualify to receive a notation of “Distinction in Community Service” noted on their transcript by contributing 90 hours of service in both CUP I and CUP II, and submitting a 10 page paper, on a topic related to underserved populations, tying in reflections from their CUP experiences, with appropriate citations from the literature.
With 8 in-house clinics, 9 clinical programs and 20 non-clinical/educational programs currently available in Tucson and Southern Arizona, serving a variety of underserved populations, students have opportunities to participate in service-learning that is related to their individual interests. Students also work with the faculty sponsors to establish new programs that will meet identified community needs.
For more information about the clinics and how to schedule an appointment, visit the CUP Clinic website.
Community Service Distinction Track
Students interested in CUP should also consider pursuing an MD distinction track in Community Service, which relies heavily on CUP service.