The College of Community Health Sciences’ departments of Family Medicine and Internal Medicine have joined, and along with the College’s Rural Health Leaders Pipeline programs, now form the Department of Family, Internal, and Rural Medicine, or FIRM. The University of Alabama Board of Trustees approved the merger at its June 2016 meeting.
Dr. Richard Streiffer, dean of the College, said the departments of Family Medicine and Internal Medicine were already collaborating in many ways, including a joint inpatient teaching service created in 2015 and through the College’s geriatrics program. Rather than continuing as two separate departments, consolidation will benefit patients, medical students and residents, says Streiffer.
“Medical practice and training are becoming much more interdisciplinary, interprofessional and collaborative than ever before,” Streiffer says. “Our structure dates back to the origins of the College, for the most part, and has perpetuated ‘silos’ that no longer make sense.”
Plus, the primary aim of the Rural Health Leaders Pipeline is to prepare students from rural areas of Alabama to provide health care in rural areas—particularly as family medicine physicians.
“Hence, the creation of FIRM into a single administrative unit gives us the unique opportunity to realign these key programs and disciplines, resources and strategies to be more collaborative and, ultimately, more effective,” Streiffer says.
Dr. Richard Friend, director of the College’s Family Medicine Residency and chair of FIRM, says the merger will also allow the College to reexamine its use of clinical space in University Medical Center for efficiency.
Being part of a single unit, FIRM will be able to more easily implement clinical guidelines and processes as part of the College’s ongoing effort to become certified as a Patient-Centered Medical Home, as well as continue to increase collaboration in research and education.
Dr. Scott Arnold will serve as vice chair of FIRM and division director for internal medicine. Dr. Catherine Scarbrough, associate residency director, will provide oversight of curricular aspects of residency and fellowship education within the department. Dr. Jane Weida, associate residency director, will serve as director of all FIRM clinics. Dr. John Wheat continues as director of the Rural Health Leaders Pipeline.