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M1 Longitudinal Program

The Longitudinal Program pairs first year medical students with a physician mentor who works clinically in an outpatient setting. Students spend time with a practicing physician and observe the interactions of doctor-patient relationship in continuity, out-patient setting. At the Pritzker School of Medicine, students learn professional and clinical skills in the traditional classroom setting, and then practice and develop these skills in the real world clinical setting with their mentoring preceptor. The students will also develop a continuity relationship with a clinic, the community and the patients.

The program helps students integrate the basic science content of medical school with clinical experience and help the student to develop an understanding of the context of their preclinical medical education.

Click here to access this year's course pack.

Longitudinal Program 2011-2012 - Reflective Essay

It is difficult for me to choose a standout experience that occurred throughout my time in the Longitudinal Program. In working with Dr. R, it was not a single patient or diagnosis, but rather the constellation of all of the diverse people, issues, illnesses, and positive health outcomes we saw that together paint an incredible portrait of the immense impact that a family medicine doctor makes in the lives of her patients.

When I first learned I was paired with a family medicine doctor, I was extremely excited. I have been interested in family medicine since the start of medical school, but the actual clinical practice of family medicine was quite nebulous to me. How was it that one doctor managed prenatal visits, sports injuries, pediatric check-ups, geriatric patients, and more in a single day? I was worried I might find it chaotic and disorienting to jump between such varied cases, and I was interested to learn how Dr. R organized and effectively treated the broad range of conditions with which her patients presented.

I am happy to report that I found the practice of family medicine to be neither chaotic nor disorienting. Rather, I found it to be thrilling and energizing. Every time we came to the clinic, we never knew who would walk in the door, but we always knew each patient would have an interesting story to tell and would present us with a new learning opportunity. I feel so fortunate to have had the chance to do everything from performing a physical exam on a two-month old, to taking the history of a distressed young mother, to helping a middle-aged man who had a work-related injury. Nothing was ever boring, and we never saw the same thing twice. It was stimulating and challenging to tailor my mindset, questions, and concerns for each patient we saw.

I loved learning and observing how Dr. R managed to address all of the diverse conditions her patients had. I quickly came to see that practicing family medicine was less about memorizing every factoid about the human body and more about knowing key information on a broad range of conditions well, along with knowing what books to reference, colleagues to call upon, and community resources to which one could be referred. I was constantly impressed by how the seemingly small actions Dr. R did had huge impacts on her patients' health. Rarely did she order complicated tests or refer patients to specialists. Rather, it was simple interventions and suggestions, such as eliminating soda for a year to lose 25 pounds, suggestions of home remedies, such as using honey to quell a sore throat, and heartfelt motivational counseling on diabetes management and smoking cessation that directed her patients on a healthy course. I will definitely take these gems of knowledge with me as I see patients in the coming years.

The opportunity to work at an FQHC was also a wonderful experience and one that made me more certain of a career in community medicine. Some of the things I loved most about the clinic were the incredible amount of resources they had available for their patients, such as onsite dentists and dieticians, and the way in which all the employees worked as a team to provide for the physical, emotional, and socioeconomic well being of their patients. Throughout our time in the Longitudinal Program, we experienced Dr. R working together with a psychologist to counsel a patient, saw Dr. R refer patients to Health Leads, the U of C student group that connects patients at the clinic with resources for things such as housing and food, and observed a nurse give a mother prenatal counseling on a range of topics, from making sure she had thought about post-partum contraception options, to ensuring that she was in contact with the local WIC office. These are just snapshots the ways in which teamwork and pooling of resources had a powerful impact on the holistic health of the community, and I hope to one day work in a setting where patients can be provided with such comprehensive resources.

I am so grateful for the experiences I had through the Longitudinal Program. Not only did it allow me the opportunity to practice history and physical exam skills through interacting with unique and interesting patients, but it allowed me to experience the science and art behind family medicine and to appreciate the power of a longitudinal relationship on many levels. For me personally, the longitudinal relationship my partner Jen and I built with Dr. R provided me with a comfortable, low-risk setting in which to learn clinical skills. Moreover, I came to appreciate how the longitudinal doctor-patient relationship that a family physician establishes with a patient and his or her loved ones provides a solid foundation of trust and mutual understanding that is essential to fostering healthy lives.
© 2011 The University of Chicago
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