Students Court Family Medicine at Minnesota 'Speed Date Our Specialty' Events

November 30, 2014 08:34 pm Jessica Pupillo

It's not easy to grab the attention of medical students, but a program created by the family medicine interest group (FMIG) at Mayo Medical School in Rochester, Minn. -- and supported by the Minnesota AFP -- is helping busy students connect with family physicians in a time-efficient manner.

Minnesota AFP President Kurt Angstman, M.D., lower right, talks about family medicine with medical students during a "speed-dating" type event supported by the chapter.

Speed Date Our Specialty, inspired by matchmaking events popular among singles, launched in 2011 as the brainchild of three Mayo medical students and FMIG members: Nora King, Sam Porter and Megan Chock. The event includes dinner and introductions and is followed by a rapid-fire, cut-to-the-chase question-and-answer session. During the Q&A, small groups of students sit down with one or two physicians for about 10 minutes to ask them questions. When the 10 minutes are up, a timer sounds and the students rotate to a new table hosted by different family doctors.

Organizers of the events take care to ensure physicians from different practice environments participate. For example, the first event included physicians practicing in urban and rural settings and for large health care systems and small community-based offices, Chock told AAFP News. Some of the physicians focused on obstetrics and women's health, while others were hospitalists or involved in research, she said.

"The benefit and the strength of the speed dating program is that it exposes students to the breadth and variation that's available within family medicine," said Jennifer Pecina, M.D., chapter member and FMIG faculty adviser at Mayo Medical School. "I think many are not aware of how broad our specialty is and how much you can do with it."

Story Highlights
  • Speed Date Our Specialty launched in 2011 as the brainchild of Mayo Medical School students and family medicine interest group members Nora King, Sam Porter and Megan Chock.
  • The event includes dinner and introductions and is followed by the students rotating among rapid-fire, cut-to-the-chase question-and-answer sessions with family physicians from different practice settings.
  • Students ask questions about topics such as the procedures participating FPs do, their relationships with patients, maintaining work-life balance and income.

The three student founders wrote a paper about the inaugural speed-date event, "Speed date our specialty: a novel event to increase students' understanding of family medicine," which was published last year in the Journal of Contemporary Medical Education. Pre- and post-event surveys reflected that students' understanding of family medicine improved significantly. Students especially reported a greater understanding of career opportunities, innovations, residency training and work-life balance within the specialty. Overall, students gave the event high ratings, providing "good" to "excellent" scores on surveys.

"Primarily, we had first- and second-years who attended, and all of them left feeling like they knew more about family medicine," Chock, now a fourth-year student at Mayo, recalled. "We never thought it would get as big as it did," she added.

The inaugural event was attended by 14 of the school's 100 first- and second-year students and 10 family physicians. Today, Minnesota's FMIGs run the program at three medical school campuses: Mayo Medical School, as well as the University of Minnesota medical school campuses in Duluth and Twin Cities, said Lisa Regehr, conference coordinator for the MAFP. Anywhere from 30-50 students attend the events each year, and students regularly request that the program be repeated the following year, she noted.

Pecina speculated that the speed dating events have been so popular because they are fun, casual and collegial, providing a refreshing break from the academic rigors of medical school.

Third-year medical student and FMIG member Austin Spronk told AAFP News about a speed dating event he helped organize at the Duluth campus this past March. Between 25 and 35 students attended, he said, and eight or nine FPs from diverse practice settings led table discussions.

The students had been assigned to work with a rural family physician through the Rural Medical Scholars Program, Spronk explained, and this event was intended to demonstrate that family medicine has much more to offer.

"We invited family medicine physicians who each had different areas of focus," said Spronk, such as clinic-only, women's health and Native American medicine. "We hoped it would show that family medicine is more than just 'small-town' medicine."

In October, a derivative Speed Date Your Specialty lunch was held during the Family Medicine Midwest 2014 conference, in Minneapolis. Kurt Angstman, M.D., president of the MAFP and associate professor of family medicine at Mayo, described the energy in the room as "vibrant."

"It's a blast to do," said Angstman, who has answered questions at several events. "It's a nonthreatening and engaging environment," he said.

Facts About the Minnesota AFP

Chapter executive director: Virginia Barzan, C.A.E.
Number of chapter members: 3,028
Year chapter was chartered: 1946
2015 annual meeting date/location: April 15, The Depot, Minneapolis

Students typically ask about the procedures he does, his relationships with patients, how he maintains work-life balance and sometimes about income and managing medical school debt, Angstman said.

The program has been a novel way to invigorate the FMIG, which has been one of the chapter's goals, along with expanding students' knowledge about the specialty, he said. The chapter supports the program through grants to each of the FMIGs and by encouraging its physician members from throughout the state to participate in program events.

"After last year's event, several students said they previously didn't realize what family physicians do on a daily basis. It's great to get even that message across," said Angstman.

At Mayo Medical School, the speed date program remains one of FMIG's most popular activities, reports second-year student Tanner Bommersbach. Bommersbach is planning a Speed Date Our Specialty event for Dec. 1. Last year, 30 medical students participated in the event, and he's anticipating the same number in 2014.

"It's such a great opportunity for students to connect with physicians in more of a relaxed setting," he said.

"Something they tell us in medical school a lot is to 'Find your people.' Find what interests you from a medical standpoint, but also find the people in the clinic that you best fit in with," Bommersbach explained. "This event allows you to get to know these physicians and really see who you gel with and what opportunities are available that you're interested in."