New Hampshire AFP's Mentoring Activities Entice Students, Residents to Choose Family Medicine

May 31, 2013 05:15 pm James Arvantes

Until last year, when she spent a month practicing obstetrics in a rural clinic in Uganda, Mary Moreno, M.D., a family medicine resident at the New Hampshire Dartmouth Family Medicine Residency Program in Concord, N.H., never fully understood the breadth and scope of family medicine. By the end of a one-month rotation delivering babies, performing cesarean sections and treating a variety of afflictions not commonly seen in the United States, however, Moreno had developed a greater respect and appreciation for family medicine. And she returned to the United States with renewed motivation and confidence in her skills as a family physician.

Mary Moreno, M.D., a family medicine resident at the New Hampshire Dartmouth Family Medicine Residency, holds a newborn that she helped deliver at a rural clinic in Uganda. The New Hampshire AFP helped finance Moreno's trip to the clinic.

Moreno's trip to Uganda was funded, in part, by the New Hampshire Academy of Family Physicians (NHAFP). Such international opportunities are just one example of how the NHAFP is working with medical students and family medicine residents in the state to encourage their interest in family medicine.

During the past several years, the NHAFP has spent $15,000 to help these students and residents travel to third-world countries to further their interests in global medicine. In addition, the NHAFP supports student clerkships with family physicians in the state and provides seats for students and residents on its board to capture fresh perspectives. The chapter also pays for medical students and residents to attend various AAFP conferences throughout the United States, according to Robert Kiefner, M.D., president of the NHAFP.

"By supporting students and residents in special projects and helping them to see what a broadly trained family doctor can do, we believe we are nurturing their passion for the specialty," said Kiefner.

Story Highlights
  • The New Hampshire AFP has spent countless hours and thousands of dollars helping medical students and family medicine residents pursue their interest in family medicine during the past several years.
  • The chapter has established mentoring programs for these students and residents and funded trips for them in this country and abroad.
  • Those efforts have paid off as the number of students graduating from the state's only medical school who go on to enter a family medicine residency has grown.

As a small chapter in a small state, the NHAFP has limited resources, but the chapter has made a commitment to support these medical students and family medicine residents. "Most of our main programs are for our students and residents," said Catrina Watson, executive director of the NHAFP. "When we see a student who is passionate about family medicine, we feel it is important to stoke that fire.

"We have very active student and resident representatives on our board. So if a student wants to attend a particular conference or go overseas, that student will come and present to our board. The student will tell us what they are planning, and then the board decides whether to approve it."

NHAFP members also benefit from interactions with the residents and students, said Watson. This is especially true for older family physicians who, according to Watson, "have been around the block, fighting for payment reform and against unfair payment rates. They see the excitement on the faces of students and residents, and it reconfirms why they followed their dreams and became family physicians in first place."

Promoting Family Medicine

The job of generating interest and support in family medicine is not easy in a state as small as New Hampshire. The state's only medical school, the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, is an Ivy League institution that tends to discourage students from going into primary care and family medicine, said Kiefner. But the New Hampshire AFP has been able to counter that message because of its support of residents and students.

"Out of 100 graduating seniors this year at Dartmouth, just five are going into family medicine," Kiefner said. "But that is an improvement over last year when only three went into family medicine."

The NHAFP also has direct ties with the Geisel School of Medicine and the New Hampshire Dartmouth Family Medicine Residency, giving the NHAFP additional opportunities to promote family medicine among medical students and residents. Douglas Dreffer, M.D., the NHAFP's vice president, serves as the residency director for the residency program, and other board members teach at the medical school.

When Carolyn Johnson arrived at Geisel School of Medicine as a first-year medical student nearly four years ago, she had no intention of pursuing primary care or family medicine as a career. "It was the last thing on my radar," she said.

But then Johnson became involved in a family medicine interest group at Dartmouth, a joint initiative funded by the NHAFP and the Department of Family Medicine at the Geisel School of Medicine. That program introduced Johnson to family physicians who encouraged her interest in family medicine.

Facts About the New Hampshire AFP

Executive director: Catrina Watson
Date chapter was chartered:
Number of chapter members: 609
Location of chapter headquarters: Concord, N.H.
2014 annual meeting/scientific conference date/location: TBD            

During her first and second years in medical school, Johnson participated in a clinical preceptorship established by the medical school. As a part of that learning experience, she shadowed a family physician every two weeks as the physician cared for patients in a variety of settings, such as the local nursing home, the county jail and the homes of patients.

"Through the interactions with the family physician and meeting his patient population, I realized the valuable skill set that family physicians bring to the community and the tremendous resource they are within their local communities," said Johnson.

But Johnson's "pivotal moment" came when she attended the AAFP's National Conference of Family Medicine Residents and Students, which gave her the chance to experience the enthusiasm surrounding family medicine firsthand. The NHAFP funded a portion of that trip.

"The energy and excitement about family medicine at National Conference was contagious, and there I got a chance to see the many different ways that family medicine is practiced all over this country," said Johnson.

Pivotal Role

Johnson and other students interviewed by AAFP News Now also point to the "pivotal role" of the NHAFP in encouraging medical students at Dartmouth to pursue careers in family medicine.

"Every student who has come out of Dartmouth to practice family medicine in the last two years has gone to some conference sponsored by the NHAFP or gone to some kind of talk or seminar sponsored by the chapter," said Johnson. "The NHAFP has been pivotal in setting people up with mentorships and summer preceptorships, which have allowed them to experience family medicine in a way that they could not otherwise experience it."

Watson is convinced that the NHAFP is developing a following and a legacy for family medicine in the state that will grow stronger in the years ahead. "We are going to keep doing what we are doing," said Watson. "Hopefully, the students and residents we have helped sponsor will return to the state to practice."

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