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Am Fam Physician. 2001;64(4):545

This August 15 edition of AFP features the first in a series of “Practical Therapeutics” updates from the Department of Family Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston. The series, coordinated by William Hueston, M.D., opens on page 603 with the cover article “COPD: Management of Acute Exacerbations and Chronic Stable Disease,” by Melissa H. Hunter, M.D., and Dana E. King, M.D. The article provides a review of step-wise therapy with beta2 agonists, anticholinergics, corticosteroids, antibiotics and oxygen to help control the inexorable symptomatic progression of COPD. The article includes an overview of COPD management in an algorithm on page 607 and is also accompanied by a patient information handout (page 621).

This excellent review represents the first in a series of practical articles lined up for the series by Dr. Hueston. Although COPD and other common respiratory conditions represent one of the department’s major research areas, faculty members in the department have a broad range of interests, including a special focus on agricultural and occupational medicine. They have been working up a series that will cover a good cross section of topics in medicine.

Upcoming topics from the Department of Family Medicine at the Medical University South Carolina include common pesticide poisonings, superficial fungal infections, electrosurgery for the skin, alopecia and hirsutism, smoking cessation, common arrhythmias, new-onset atrial fibrillation, hypothyroidism, premenstrual syndrome and peptic ulcer disease.

The department was one of the first university family practice departments and was founded over 30 years ago. As such, one of the earliest missions of the department was to help train teachers of family medicine. Many founding family practice chairs originally were either previous faculty members or graduates of the residency program. The department has continued to carry on that tradition with strong residency, fellowship and research programs. The department’s activities are supported by various research grants. Currently, the department is working on projects with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the National Library of Medicine.

The department has 29 staff members on the faculty and 36 residents in training. As of 1997, the residents, through an educational agreement, complete a majority of their training at Trident Medical Center, a large community hospital in the Charleston area, and some do rotations at Southern Carolina University Medical Center. The department offers faculty development fellowships in family medicine.

In addition, the department is actively involved in teaching medical students. The group developed a yearlong course on longitudinal patient care for first-year students. After the end of their first year, students may participate in a summer research externship. Second-year students are offered a one-semester course that provides an introduction to clinical reasoning. A one-month family medicine clerkship is open to third-year students. The department also coordinates the dean’s rural clerkship, in which students participate in primary care in a rural area for one month. Students participate in a mandatory fourth-year externship at Trident Medical Center.

According to Dr. Hueston, the strengths of the family medicine department—combined with the southern charm of the university and the good weather—make it a great place to work. And AFP is looking forward to a great series of “Practical Therapeutics” articles from these contributors.

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