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Wednesday Jun 20, 2012

Family Medicine Welcomes Mount Sinai Into the Fold

Did you feel the earth move last week? It was because the list of U.S. medical schools lacking a department of family medicine just got a little shorter.

Mount Sinai School of Medicine(www.mountsinai.org) will open its Department of Family Medicine and Community Health on July 1, leaving just 10 U.S. allopathic medical schools without family medicine departments.

Mount Sinai restarted its Family Medicine Interest Group earlier this year, and already has 20 active student members. Adding a department of family medicine sends a message to students, and to our country, that the school values our specialty and the needs of our health care system. It facilitates the learning process for students who want to be family physicians and provides invaluable mentors and role models.

One of those role models will be AAFP member Neil Calman, M.D.(www.institute2000.org), president, CEO and co-founder of the Institute for Family Health(www.institute2000.org) and chair of Mount Sinai's new family medicine department.

Calman's institute, one of the largest community health centers in the state with more than two dozen locations, will work in collaboration with Mount Sinai. The institute's new Family Health Center of Harlem and Mount Sinai Hospital will meet a critical need in the community, serving two of the poorest areas of New York City: Central and East Harlem. That area has been federally designated as a Medically Underserved Area and a Health Professionals Shortage Area.

The nation as a whole is facing a shortage of primary care physicians. Can one school adding a family medicine program really make a difference?

Yes, it certainly does any time one of the country's highly regarded medical schools takes this kind of initiative. Mount Sinai's new program is in line with a shift we are seeing to a more patient-centered approach. And more access to primary care means better preventive care, better management of chronic conditions and better outcomes overall.

Dr. Calman has been recognized by numerous health care organizations -- including the AAFP -- for his efforts to improve public health. For the past several months, the AAFP worked with the New York AFP to provide data and support to his staff at the Institute for Family Health as they worked to make this partnership with Mount Sinai a reality.

Now, about those other 10 schools. We're working on it.

The AAFP provides scholarships to medical students at targeted schools to attend the National Conference of Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students. Staff members from the AAFP''s Division of Medical Education also make site visits for faculty and resource development, and the Academy provides funding and support to Family Medicine Interest Groups.

  Although real and important change takes time, hard work often pays off, so we look forward to seeing this list of medical schools without family medicine departments dwindle:

  • Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons;
  • George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences;
  • Harvard Medical School;
  • Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine;
  • New York University School of Medicine;
  • Stanford University School of Medicine;
  • Washington University School of Medicine (St. Louis);
  • Vanderbilt University School of Medicine;
  • Weill Cornell Medical College; and
  • Yale School of Medicine.

We're not the only ones who would like to see these 10 schools make changes to recognize the importance of our specialty.

"We also need academic medicine to further explore the importance of primary care in your research and underscore it in your training," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a recent speech (www.hhs.gov)at John Hopkins. "Far too often, especially at our leading teaching hospitals, primary care has been treated like it was less challenging, less important, and a less worthy use of a physician's skills. We need to change these attitudes, and that starts with our medical schools."

Jeffrey Cain, M.D.of Denver, is president-elect of the AAFP.

Posted at 11:06AM Jun 20, 2012 by Jeffrey Cain, M.D.

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