January 12, 2022, 2:32 p.m. David Mitchell — Medical students often have good ideas about how to improve their communities’ health. The challenge may be translating those ideas into action that makes a difference.
“It requires a framework and structure,” said Ian Coker, a second-year resident in the St. Elizabeth Family Medicine Residency program in Edgewood, Ky. “You have to think about how often you meet, what your actions steps are and who you engage with. It’s all these bits and pieces that helped build our road to success. We got a lot of tools and training.”
Coker participated in the Primary Care Leadership Collaborative as a student at the Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine. The PCLC helped a team of AZCOM students implement a program that screened roughly 450 Medicare patients for risks related to social determinants of health. Students then presented a report to the institution’s family physicians that identified those patients’ gaps in care.
“From the student side, there are so many skills you pick up from doing things like this — organizational skills and communication skills,” Coker said. “I attended a lot of meetings, and rounds are like meetings. The feedback from my attending was that my presentations were well delivered. It’s amazing how many of these things translate to practice. PCLC will help produce future leaders who are motivated and well trained to take on the challenges of primary care.”
The AAFP, Intend Health Strategies (formerly Primary Care Progress) and Family Medicine for America’s Health launched the PCLC in 2017 to train medical students involved in family medicine interest groups to turn their passion for primary care into action. Thirteen student teams from allopathic and osteopathic medical schools and their faculty advisers participated in the collaborative’s two-year pilot with a team of family physician coaches.
Applications for the PCLC’s third cohort are open through Feb. 28, and the next round of training for those selected to participate begins in April.
Students accepted into the program commit to participate for two years. Each student team has a faculty adviser and works with trained coaches who are family medicine residents or early career family physicians. Teams work with their coaches regularly to progress through teambuilding, identifying the issue students want to address, asset mapping and stakeholder engagement, convening stakeholders, action planning and evaluation.
All teams will attend a PCLC Summit in July during the AAFP National Conference of Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students in Kansas City, Mo., for workshops and leadership skill building.
The program’s coaches also receive regular guidance and mentoring from PCLC Project Lead Coach Christina Kelly, M.D.
“It’s valuable on multiple levels,” said Kelly, who recently completed her term as a member of the AAFP’s Commission on Education and chair of its Subcommittee on Resident and Student Issues. “It’s an amazing leadership opportunity that shows students the power they have as change agents. We’re providing an avenue for them to use their voices and to really make a difference for their programs and communities.”
Anthony Markuson, M.D., a 2021 graduate of the Family Medicine Residency of Idaho’s Magic Valley Program, participated in the PCLC as student at the University of Washington School of Medicine and then continued to be involved with the initiative as a coach.
“The training, coaching and leadership opportunities I received were instrumental in my time as a resident and now as family physician,” he said. “I am so impressed with how this leadership model and work have continued to grow medical students’ skills as leaders and the subsequent impact on the community.”
At Washington, Markuson was part of a medical student team that created a series of workshops for students at Federal Way High School who were interested in health professions.
“From our perspective, it helped our students strive to be better leaders and actually learn how to be better leaders,” said Tomoko Sairenji, M.D., M.S., assistant professor in the University of Washington’s Department of Family Medicine and faculty adviser for the school’s family medicine interest group. “Some of our students just want to help people, but it’s not clear how to do that in the beginning when you start medical school. It’s become clear to our students how to use their voices, not just in top-down leadership but how to inspire in community, how to mentor. They learned leadership skills that will turn them into better family physicians.”
Although many of the medical students who initiated the program have moved on to residency training, Washington continues the pipeline program with Federal Way. During the pandemic, monthly online mentoring replaced the in-person workshops.
“Our students have learned they can have an impact on a whole group of students who are following in their footsteps,” Sairenji said.