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April 9, 2023

Distinguishing Medical Care from Health Care: A Conversation with Dr. Christopher King

By Ryan Nugent (C’26)

On April 4, 2023, Christopher King, dean of Georgetown’s School of Health, visited our Conversations in Health: Global to Local class to talk about his journey through a career in health as well as how structural racism impacts community health. Dean King has had a long career teaching and working in the health sector, working as assistant vice president for community health at Medstar, director for Greater Baden Medical Services, and many more. This conversation about his various jobs helped me to see some of the different roles that there are in the health care sector that do not have to involve going to medical school. Community health truly depends on everyone working together in the health care system and not only having good doctors, but having dedicated and compassionate teachers and workers.

One of the main takeaways from Dean King’s talk was about the difference between medical care and health care. Medical care is more focused on the physical well-being of patients, while health care extends to the person’s whole life and making sure that they are able to deal with their medical issues outside of the hospital. Health care emphasizes that people can have all of their needs taken care of so that their health is the best it can be. I found this difference to be very important so that people are not readmitted to the hospital multiple times, and instead we are working towards caring for all aspects of people’s lives. Another important point was that this version of health also needs to consider the mental health of the patient. Mental health may be something that is often passed over and should be considered when trying to provide holistic health care.

Another main point that our conversation focused on was the impact structural racism can have on the health of a community. Through the papers we read from Dean King, things such as redlining, racist policies, and hospitals closing in certain areas of Washington, DC, were specific examples of where communities were not given equal access to health care. These issues were especially highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, when all health systems were stressed and the inequalities were expressed by the data showing how many people got sick or died. During the conversation, we focused on how hospitals and health care systems can work with local organizations and businesses to promote health care. By working together with communities that already exist, hospitals can bring trust into these communities and try to help people in a productive way.

I found this conversation to be very informative on specific structures of health in the city of Washington, DC, as well as how certain factors affect people's health. I think it is important for students like myself to think about these topics as we go into the health care field so we can make educated decisions.

Ryan Nugent (C’26) is an undergraduate student at Georgetown University studying biology on a pre-medical track. He is a student in the Conversations in Health: Global to Local course.