The North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians, or NCAFP, is teaming up with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, or BCBSNC Foundation, to start a mentoring program that aims to encourage more medical students to choose a career in family medicine and to practice in the state.
In a June 2 announcement, the BCBSNC Foundation said it is providing a $1.18 million grant to the NCAFP Foundation to establish the Family Medicine Interest and Scholars Program(www.bcbsncfoundation.org), a two-tiered effort to increase the number of North Carolina-trained medical students who enter family medicine residency programs and remain in the state to practice. For its part, the NCAFP is providing $600,000 for the program.
The partnership was announced officially in a June 2 press conference that marked the program's launch.
"This project makes a very loud statement: Primary care is important and family medicine is important," said NCAFP President R.W. "Chip" Watkins, M.D., in his prepared remarks for the press event. "We need to ensure that our state's medical students have every opportunity to learn about our specialty. Through this partnership, we can make a much greater impact and reach far more medical students than we have in the past."
Brad Wilson, chairman of the BCBSNC Foundation, agreed. "We are already faced with a national shortage of primary care physicians, and the recently passed health care reform legislation will mean an increase in the number of folks seeking care," he said in the announcement.
"We hope that through this initiative, North Carolina medical students will receive the help and incentive they need to make a commitment to family medicine."
The program aims to strengthen relationships between the NCAFP, practicing family physicians, medical school departments and the family medicine interest groups, or FMIGs, at four North Carolina medical schools: the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University in Greenville, the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem and Duke University School of Medicine in Durham.
Practicing family physicians and other primary care thought-leaders will step up their on-campus contact with medical students at the schools. The physicians will speak regularly to students at each medical school, and a national-level speaker will be featured at key FMIG events. In addition, a larger group of students will be exposed to the NCAFP Annual Meeting each year.
Through the scholars component of the program, as many as 12 medical students will be enrolled in a three-year curriculum designed to enhance their clinical skills and develop their health care leadership. The program includes the option of obtaining a scholarship for as much as $10,000 if the student scholar enters a family medicine residency program.
Each scholar will be paired with a master preceptor who will serve as a mentor. These specially selected preceptors will meet with the student scholar during a four-week externship between the student's first and second year of medical school. Their relationship will continue with interaction at the NCAFP Annual Meeting and during an additional clinical rotation.
These scholars also will receive funding to attend the AAFP's National Conference of Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students and one other related conference. In addition, the scholars will participate in a leadership rotation with the NCAFP during their fourth year of medical school.
The BCBSNC Foundation announcement noted that recently passed health care reform legislation will increase the number of persons who are insured and who will seek regular primary care. North Carolina now has 2,700 family physicians, but will need 2,000 more by 2020 to address its health care needs.
"The North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians is committed to improving primary and family health care in North Carolina. Our hope is that this program sparks the health care industry to look for more innovative ways to address the primary care shortage in our state," NCAFP EVP Greg Griggs, M.P.A., C.A.E., said in the announcement.
"We understand that pursuing family medicine is often not an easy choice for medical students. We believe this grant will help make family medicine more of an option for North Carolina medical students. And the access to dedicated mentors will help these students provide quality medical care to patients across the state," he said.