Strength of Oklahoma AFP Rooted in Student Programming

October 31, 2014 11:08 pm Jessica Pupillo

Almost as soon as they step on campus, medical students at Oklahoma's largest medical school, the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine in Oklahoma City, are introduced to the Oklahoma AFP.

[Oklahoma medical students in lecture]

Almost as soon as they step on campus, medical students at Oklahoma's largest medical school, the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine in Oklahoma City, are introduced to the Oklahoma AFP via the school's Family and Community Medicine Interest Group.

Each September, the 160 or so first-year students, along with older medical students, are invited to a welcome luncheon organized by the school's Family and Community Medicine Interest Group, or FCMIG. The FCMIG is a student organization that's sponsored and supported by the Oklahoma chapter's Family Health Foundation.

Last month, about 60 students attended the welcome luncheon, said Kari Ames, deputy director for the Oklahoma AFP, and in addition to enjoying a free meal, students hear various faculty members speak about their specialty and the residency programs located in the state.

It's an important program, said Mina Sardashti, of Oklahoma City, a second-year medical student and student president of FCMIG. Many first-year students have inaccurate ideas about exactly what all family medicine encompasses, she explained.

"Sometimes, family medicine is preconceived as less specialized, and in reality, it is quite specialized," Sardashti said. "Students may not know that it's not just general medicine. Family medicine is very honed into specific skills and diagnostic techniques that other doctors in other fields don't get in their education."

Story Highlights
  • Each September, first-year students at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine in Oklahoma City are invited to a welcome luncheon organized by the school's Family and Community Medicine Interest Group, or FCMIG.
  • The welcome lunch and subsequent monthly luncheons work to dispel common myths about family medicine and enable students to explore what it's like to be a family doctor.
  • This year, FCMIG student leaders requested more opportunities to connect with residents, whom the students generally perceive as being more relatable and less intimidating than faculty members.

The welcome lunch and subsequent monthly luncheons work to dispel common myths and enable students to explore what it's like to be a family doctor, Sardashti said.

This year, FCMIG student leaders requested more opportunities to connect with residents, whom the students generally perceive as being more relatable and less intimidating than faculty members. They also recommended topics for the residents to address. During the October luncheon, residents involved in mission work, both overseas and in Oklahoma, spoke at the lunch meeting.

"I always enjoy talking to students who are interested in mission work," said Tyler Whitaker, D.O. Chief resident at In His Image Family Medicine Residency in Tulsa, Whitaker spoke at the mission luncheon about why he's choosing to use his medical training as a form of ministry.

"One of the messages I was trying to get across is there's a great need, in the U.S. and around the world, for health care," Whitaker said. "There are great spiritual needs, too, and you can partner the two together. We've been given this great gift of medicine, and we should share it with those who are most in need."

Speakers at future luncheons are scheduled to address sports medicine, practicing family medicine as a hospitalist and tuition reimbursement programs. In December, residents at St. Anthony Family Medicine Residency will lead a procedures clinic, during which students will have the opportunity to practice shave and punch biopsies, ingrown toenail removal with digital block, incision and drainage of an abscess, and subungual hematoma evacuation. This program is so popular with students that the 21 slots were full within the first half-hour after registration began.

"For the first two years of medical school, you're behind books a lot. It's nice to use your book knowledge and get some hands-on time," Sardashti said.

Family medicine resident Tyler Whitaker, D.O., introduces medical students to family medicine and how it integrates with medical mission work.

It's also nice to socialize outside of an academic and clinical setting. For the first time, the chapter hosted a Friday night mixer this fall for medical students and family medicine residents at the home of Sam Blackstock, EVP of the Oklahoma AFP. Seventy-five students and 25 residents attended the soiree, Blackstock said.

"It was so fun," Sardashti said. "I saw a lot of students talking to residents about programs in the area. I was able to network with residents, and those are now people I can turn to if I have questions."

This is exactly what FCMIG leaders hoped to accomplish. Relationships between residents and medical students are critical, according to Blackstock. "It helps the residency programs recruit future residents, and it helps us let the students know about family medicine," he said.

"We can't convert every medical student to a family medicine resident," Blackstock added, "although we can make sure every medical student knows exactly what family medicine is all about."

Ultimately, he said, he hopes to see the Match rate for family medicine residencies continue to go up, but he also hopes that the rate of resident members that convert to new AFP members will increase.

Encouraging students to select family medicine as a specialty has been a long-standing priority for the Oklahoma AFP, said chapter President Matt Crespo, D.O., of Oklahoma City. "Leading our young physicians and guiding them along their career paths in respect to family medicine is crucial for all of us in the field."

Facts About the Oklahoma AFP

Chapter executive director: Sam Blackstock
Number of chapter members: 1,194
Year chapter was chartered: 1948
Website:(www.okafp.org)
2015 annual meeting date/location: June 18-21, Embassy Suites, Norman

Students need to know that family medicine is not just a generalist field, Crespo said. Programs like FCMIG drive home the message that family physicians can work in all aspects of health care across multiple settings.

"We're constantly looking for opportunities not only to serve the community but also to serve our student members," he said.

Sam Ratermann, M.D., of Grove, Okla., served as FCMIG student president in 2004 when he attended medical student at University of Oklahoma.

He recalls entering his first year of medical school not knowing what specialty he'd choose, but he quickly connected with FCMIG. "Family medicine is not always seen as the most prestigious specialty," he said. But through the FCMIG, he learned how respected family physicians were among physicians in other specialties.

He participated in the chapter's Future Physicians of Oklahoma program, a four-week summer externship in rural family medicine for medical students. He was placed in tiny Okeene, where he worked with family doctors in a clinic and at the area hospital. That summer, he recalled watching babies be born and helping in the ER. "I never, ever looked back," he said.

Today, he is one of several preceptors for students who are participating in the very same program that helped him define his career choice. Chapter leaders love working with students, he said. "It turns into a little family, and it really does foster students going into family medicine and students staying active in the chapter."

Considering that 50 resident members attended the Oklahoma AFP annual meeting last year, the chapter is looking forward to strong leadership from their young doctors for years to come.


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