Training community-responsive physicians

Acad Med. 2002 Jul;77(7):747. doi: 10.1097/00001888-200207000-00036.


Objective: The "community-responsive" primary care provider has a population health perspective and is prevention-oriented, culturally competent, collaborative, and an active community leader and patient advocate. To encourage residents to value this level of community involvement and possess the requisite knowledge and skills, St. Luke's family practice residency program has developed a longitudinal community medicine curriculum designed to teach the four domains of physician-community involvement: (1) insight into sociocultural aspects of patient care, (2) familiarity with community health resources, (3) community-oriented primary care skills, and (4) community involvement.(1) Training physicians with the desire and skills to practice in medically underserved communities is a program goal.

Description: The three-year community medicine curriculum begins during residency orientation with a windshield survey of the communities served by the campus-related clinics. During the first year, all residents participate in a four-week community medicine rotation. By providing health education and clinical services to diverse populations in community clinics, agencies, and schools, they begin to develop community health-improvement skills, while observing role models, developing advocacy skills, expanding cultural awareness, and experiencing interdisciplinary collaboration. At the end of the first year, residents select a community clinical site, where they will see patients and develop a community health-improvement project during the last two years of training. A required "capstone presentation" describes the scope and nature of each resident's project by focusing on process and outcome measures. Innovative qualitative evaluation tools include a written portfolio of reflections and sequential "video journaling." An attribute-based progression matrix developed by Alverno College was adapted to facilitate serial identification and tracking of resident growth in eight domains: communication, analysis, problem solving, aesthetic responsiveness, global perspectives, valuing in decision making, social interaction, and effective citizenship.(2) Support for this program is provided by HRSA, Wisconsin AHEC, Aurora Health Care, and the medical school.

Discussion: A recent program graduate, now a faculty member, demonstrated the potential for this educational strategy by developing a local "Reach Out and Read" program. Targeting literacy as a factor related to the cycle of poverty and poor health, she implemented an intervention in which residents read with their pediatric patients during each visit and give the child a book to take home. As each residency class implements health-promoting interventions, this longitudinal community medicine residency curriculum will improve community health through "service learning," as well as develop a cadre of young physicians who practice community-responsive clinical medicine and have the skills and confidence to choose to serve underserved populations.

MeSH terms

  • Community Medicine / education*
  • Curriculum
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency
  • Physicians*
  • Preventive Medicine / education
  • Primary Health Care
  • Wisconsin