The College of Community Health Sciences hosted 33 University of Alabama School of Medicine students April 27 and 28 who will complete their third and fourth years of medical school in Tuscaloosa.
In its role as a regional campus for the School of Medicine, the College provides clinical education for a portion of medical students, who complete the first two years of medical school at the School of Medicine’s main campus in Birmingham, and their third and fourth years at either Birmingham or one of the school’s regional campuses in Tuscaloosa, Huntsville or Montgomery.
During the orientation in Tuscaloosa, medical students learned about the College’s clerkships, participated in electronic medical record training and toured DCH Regional Medical Center. Most of the students are Alabamians, while others are from Georgia, Oregon, Connecticut and other states.
Dr. Richard Streiffer, dean of the College, told the students that while the College’s clinical education is oriented toward primary care, it provides exposure to and experience in other specialties. “Our focus is on primary care, but not exclusively,” he said. “We provide a very good, general professional education of physicians. We have students going into every discipline from this campus.”
Streiffer explained that an emphasis on primary care is important for a number of reasons. The US spends more on primary care than most industrialized nations yet has poorer health outcomes. Primary care, meanwhile, is associated with better access to care at lower costs. Alabama continues to have a shortage of primary care physicians. The US has an aging population suffering from chronic diseases and conditions that primary care is best suited to handle. And, finally, primary care takes into consideration social determinants of health – factors like socioeconomic status, education, physical environments, employment and social support networks, as well as access to care.
“Medical schools are largely funded by public money, so a social mission that medical schools have is to train physicians to meet the needs of society, Streiffer said, adding that the mission of the College is to improve health in communities by educating and training doctors for Alabama and the Southeast region.
He said the College’s education efforts are also interprofessional. “You will interact with students from nursing, social work and pharmacy, and you can take a culinary medicine course. You will work with our residents. We have an interprofessional faculty, and University Medical Center is a full-service practice.”
The College operates The University of Alabama Family Medicine Residency, the second largest family medicine residency in the US and one of the oldest. University Medical Center, the largest community practice in West Alabama, is also operated by the College and is the base for its clinical teaching program. UMC provides direct health care services in the areas of: primary care, including family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics and geriatrics; psychiatry and behavioral medicine; women’s health, including obstetrics and gynecology; and sports medicine. UMC also has telemedicine services and evening hours. The practice saw nearly 155,000 patients last year.