A new kind of doctor who treats patients and systems.
Five years ago, when the Primary Care-Population Medicine program was first proposed, it was, like most new ideas, met with healthy skepticism. The concept of a dual-degree program focused on primary care raised questions, not to mention that it would increase the class size by up to 24 students, potentially changing the small, boutique feel of the Warren Alpert Medical School.
The questions were reasonable. Is this going to be some kind of med school-lite program, where students can skip some of the required clinical rotations? The exact opposite, actually—they do more work since they have to do original research and a thesis to earn the master’s degree. What if the students change their mind and end up not going into primary care? Not a problem; all types of physicians can benefit from training in population medicine. If that’s true, then why not teach it to all medical students? They do; content on the “third science”—health care systems—was integrated into the curriculum for all students.
Two years after the first students were enrolled, I began working with PC-PM students to create recruitment materials for the program. I was fascinated by how they all felt the program was going to help them be the physician they envisioned themselves becoming, even though they each had very different goals. In addition to the regular aspects of medical education and their scholarly work, they got leadership training and media training, ensuring that when they go out into practice, they’ll have the skills to make real change in the health system as leaders and advocates.
And here they are, the first graduates getting ready to go out into the field. Like all experiments, the PC-PM has been tweaked over the years and will continue to evolve based on student feedback. (We love feedback here.) But judging by their Match results, the first batch of MD-ScM grads are well on their way to becoming what Assistant Dean for Primary Care-Population Health Jeffrey Borkan, MD, PhD, calls “a physician plus.”