Alpert Medical School faculty members are planning to pioneer a program in 2015 that will attempt to address a shortage of primary care physicians in the United States. The program will have a separate admission process from the rest of the Med School.
Approximately 70 percent of doctors in the country are specialists – and with the continuation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature health care legislation, the number of health-insured citizens in need of primary care doctors will likely increase, said Paul George, assistant professor of family medicine.
Jeffrey Borkan, professor of family medicine and a head developer of the program, said he hopes to enroll the first class of 24 students in the fall of 2015.
The program will emphasize skills involved in providing general care including primary care, general surgery and general psychology, Borkan said. He added that courses in the new program will emphasize health initiatives to benefit large populations, a change from the general Med School curriculum, which focuses on care for individuals.
The University will also examine the possibility of incorporating a masters program into the four-year curriculum, said Ira Wilson, professor of health services policy and practice, who will oversee that project. Such a program would allow students to graduate the program with dual degrees. The masters component is still in planning stages, Wilson said.
The curriculum will include small group work and case studies rather than lectures, Borkan said. For their residencies, students will devote half a day per week to each medical department for over a year, rather than spending the typical six weeks in a row in each, said George, who heads the group of faculty members developing the curriculum.
The curriculum will allow students to “develop relationships with patients and with mentors” over a longer period of time, Borkan added.
The Med School has provided the funding for this project so far, said Philip Gruppuso, associate dean for medical education and professor of pediatrics. He said there is enough space in the building to accommodate the extra students, but added that the Med School plans to hire additional faculty members for the program.
Before students can be enrolled in 2015, the faculty members involved will need to develop a more complete plan, Borkan said. The Liaison Committee on Medical Education, an outside body, must accredit the program before the University can officially institute it. The provost and the president must provide approval, he said.
“I think (this program) is a spectacular idea. It meets a need in society for not just primary care physicians, but ones who are trained in a scholarly way,” said Provost Mark Schlissel P’15.
“This is the perfect time to expand and transform how we teach in this area,” said President Christina Paxson.