SOM Receives Grant to Develop Service Learning Course

Amy Denham, MD, MPH, associate professor, department of Family Medicine, and Amy Weil, MD, clinical associate professor of Medicine and Social Medicine, co-director, Beacon Child and Family Program, have received funding from UNC’s Apples Service Learning program to develop service learning and interprofessional education components of the curriculum in Intensive Integration, part of the UNC School of Medicine’s new Translational Education at Carolina (TEC) curriculum.

 SOM Receives Grant to Develop Service Learning Course click to enlarge Amy Weil, MD, Amy Denham, MD, MPH

Intensive Integration will be a required course for all medical students beginning in March of 2016. One of the aims of the course will be to ensure that all students have mentored opportunities for critical reflection on the service they are providing to patients throughout their clinical training.

“I’m excited that this will be a required course for our students,” Denham said. “We really want to explore both the humanistic side of medicine and the realities of being a physician working with teams from various disciplines.”

Weil and Denham said that some of the principles behind the course were things that medical students said they would like more exposure to during their training.

As part of the course, medical students rotating through the Internal Medicine academic outpatient clinic will perform home visits with high-utilizing patients. They will be accompanied on these visits by professional students from other disciplines, such as pharmacy, nursing and social work. These teams will work to understand better  the issues and barriers faced by patients with high health care utilization and develop solutions for these patients. This work is an expansion of the ongoing service learning ‘hotspotting project by fourth-year medical student and Schweitzer Fellow Rita Kuwahara and a team of inter professional students. 

There are also plans underway to pilot a similar collaboration with Piedmont Health Services for students doing clinical rotations there.

Weil said that the interprofessional component of this course will help prepare students for the real world of being a practicing physician.

“We know that if you’re working in medicine, you’re working in teams,” Weil said. “I think it’s important for our students to realize that in some situations they might not be the expert and will need to rely on the skills of their colleagues in other disciplines.”

Following these experiences, the groups will meet in the classroom to discuss their experiences and consider ways that they may impact future interactions with patients. Denham said there will also be plenty of room for discussing other topics as well.

“I think just giving students a place for reflection is important to their maturation as physicians. They may see some sort of health disparity or have another troubling experience that they don’t feel comfortable discussing during rounds. We want them to work through those pent-up experiences and share them with their classmates.”

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