By Bruce Gould, MD
It is my job to help make sure there is a substantial number of primary care doctors coming out of our medical school. However, as we are faced with a need for more primary care doctors, it is apparent that we need to encourage more students not only to choose this field, but to have an extreme passion for it. Quite often, we find that students don’t have the same passion for primary care as they do for other specialties. The hours are longer, you are multitasking to the extreme, and you get paid less — all in all, not what students dream of when they decide to become doctors.
Many post-admission students to our medical school come in with an interest in primary care, but often that passion is gone by their second or third year. We realized we needed to do a better job of balancing career counseling with mentoring students about career choice; we want to embrace them with effective mentorship. Simply encouraging students to be a carbon copy of us is ineffective. We knew there must be better ways of encouraging students to pursue primary care. Based on these ideas and the students’ needs, we developed a primary care physician mentorship program.
It is our hope that the Primary Care Career Advising and Mentoring Program (PCCAMP), a Connecticut Area Health Education Center (Connecticut AHEC) initiative, will lead more students to become impassioned primary care providers. The mission of PCCAMP is to design a curriculum that is used to build strong and consistent relationships between students and physicians, so students can have improved access to professional development. PCCAMP ‘s goal is to educate students outside of their core curriculum and inspire them to embrace a passion for primary care. This program is separate from our academic program tracking in the official curriculum, but serves as an additional resource for students and physicians. We have a web-based curriculum, because many students wanted other resources in addition to face-to-face connections.
The idea of this program is to make the tools for mentoring readily accessible. We all know how busy doctors can be, so what we are trying to do is put things at the site of care. We give people toolkits and ideas that they can keep in their pocket and use when it is convenient for them.
The practice environment is changing. We are gearing up a more cohesive approach to career mentoring across the medical school curriculum. More and more students will need to understand and love to practice primary care. We are confident that is a worthwhile program to implement to support our future physicians.
—Bruce Gould, MD, is the associate dean for primary care at the University of Connecticut Health Center and the director of the Connecticut AHEC Program. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.