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AAMC annual meeting to feature correctional health leader Warren Ferguson

UMass Medical School Communications

October 27, 2017

Warren J. Ferguson, MD, one of the nation’s leading experts on health care for criminal justice populations, will speak at the upcoming Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) annual meeting in Boston.

Dr. Ferguson, vice chair and professor of family medicine & community health, will participate in the Nov. 5 session “Social Justice Behind and Beyond the Bars: Criminal Justice Health and Academic Medicine.”

Ferguson, director of academic programs for UMass Medical School’s Health and Criminal Justice Program, will discuss the impact of incarceration on the health of individuals in the criminal justice system as well as the special challenges and conditions their medical practitioners face. Ferguson is also chair of the Academic Consortium on Criminal Justice Health, which he helped found.

“You never ask about the crimes they have committed,” Ferguson said in an AAMC video about the unique competencies prison health care providers need to have. “You are there to provide health care. You are not a police officer, a lawyer or a judge. Leave the politics out of it.”

Ferguson has been recognized for his long-standing efforts toward training the next generation of professionals dedicated to improving health care outcomes for the incarcerated and other vulnerable groups. He routinely mentors criminal health justice students and junior investigators.

“Incarceration has an impact on people’s health on multiple levels,” Ferguson said. “Individuals in many respects lose much of their humanity when they are incarcerated. It can be a very dehumanizing experience.”

At a time when there is already a shortage of primary care physicians, recruiting new medical personnel to work in prisons and jails across the country can be challenging.

“Jails and prisons are at the bottom of the totem pole in terms of recruitment,” Ferguson said. “Those seeking to build a career in the correctional health system also must learn to navigate a unique culture as well.”

Thousands of medical school deans, researchers, clinicians, hospital executives and university administrators will gather Nov. 3-7 in Boston for “Learn Serve Lead 2017,” the AAMC’s annual meeting.