The Alpert Medical School’s new MD-ScM dual-degree program in Primary Care-Population Medicine — the first of its kind in the United States — enrolled 16 students to its first class, said Paul George ’01 MD’05, assistant professor of family medicine and director of the program. The PC-PM program’s class of 2019 was chosen from about 1,000 applicants.
The program integrates population health into the traditional medical education. Students in the Program in Liberal Medical Education are allowed to apply to the program.
“We designed nine new courses that will be integrated in the MD curriculum,” George said. PC-PM students take courses in areas not usually required for Med School students, including health systems and policy, quantitative methods, research methods in population medicine and leadership. Toward the end of the program, students complete a master’s thesis in an area of population health of their choosing.
PC-PM students will also participate in a new style of medical rotations during their third year called Longitudinal Integrated Clerkships that “allow students to build long-term relationships with patients they are seeing,” George said.
While traditional students do medical rotations in six-week blocks in each different healthcare specialty, the dual-degree students will follow a panel of patients for a year in order to have a “more longitudinal primary care focus,” said Shayla Minteer MD-ScM’19. “I want to make a change in a larger way than just the individual scale,” she said.“We are being asked to improve health outcomes in entire communities. I feel like this kind of curriculum should be almost ubiquitous and hopefully we can serve as a model.”
The dual-degree program was created to provide students with a more in-depth education on how healthcare systems work and a better understanding of how to improve healthcare outcomes in populations, said Jeffrey Borkan, assistant dean of the PC-PM program and chair of the department of family medicine. “Students who graduate medical school need to know how systems work, why some medications are expensive and some are cheaper and what are worthwhile interventions for testing,” he added.
“We want to help achieve the triple aim: better outcomes for patients, lower costs (and) better patient experience,” Borkan said.
Jonathan Staloff ’14 MD-ScM’19, who is part of the inaugural PC-PM class, said he applied to the program because during his undergraduate years at Brown, he “got very interested in how the healthcare system is structured, how the healthcare system is changing and how healthcare policy directly influences … every interaction between a physician and a patient.”
“This program is largely focused on trying to breed a new type of physician, one who excels in clinical patient care but also thinks in terms of population health and broader health outcomes — what the programs call ‘physicians plus,’” Staloff said.
These “physicians plus” have a wide variety of interests in the healthcare fields, ranging from tackling global health challenges with the Peace Corps to working with prisoner populations, he said.
PC-PM is trying to shift medical treatment from “reactive healthcare” to “proactive, value-based care,” he added.
As PC-PM is a new program, faculty members prioritize student feedback and make changes accordingly, Minteer said.
The Med School was one of 11 in the country to receive a $1 million grant from the American Medical Association’s “Accelerating Change in Medical Education” initiative. The grant money “is being used primarily for curricular development, teaching, building the infrastructure for the program and giving legitimacy to the program,” Borkan said.
Looking ahead, both George and Borkan expressed a desire to extend some of the values of the PC-PM program to the entire Med School.
“We have to impart these skills to all our students, not just primary care students,” George said. “All students need to be able to lead teams.”
A previous version of this article said that there were 16 students accepted into the program. In fact, 16 students were enrolled in the program. It also stated that 10 medical schools received the AMA $1 million grant, but in fact, there were 11. The Herald regrets the errors.