RAHC trains physician-teachers
The Regional Academic Health Center faculty retreat held in Harlingen recently attracted 111 physicians intent on developing their skills as physician-teachers. Although the RAHC Medical Education Division in Harlingen will not admit its first class of third-year medical students until July 2002, the RAHC already offers primary care clerkships in obstetrics & gynecology, pediatrics, internal medicine, psychiatry and surgery. In those programs, local physicians appointed to the RAHC faculty are serving as preceptors, or hands-on instructors, for medical students and medical residents. About half of these physicians present already had taught medical students in their practices.
"This is an extraordinary achievement in terms of scope and size," Dr. Steven A. Wartman, executive vice president for academic and health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, told the RAHC faculty development participants. "I expect to go around the country bragging about it. It's that important." Normally, faculty development programs are presented for fewer than 10 physicians who are all in the same specialty. However, physicians attending the RAHC retreat represented pediatrics, medicine, surgery, ob-gyn, family practice and psychiatry — the six clerkship areas now offered by the RAHC.
"We want to pass on knowledge to the next generation. That is part of our mission," said Dr. Wartman. For the RAHC faculty, the excitement of taking students into a practice was tempered by questions about how to find the time to teach them to ensure that the students learn what they need to know. "As practicing physicians, we are already teachers every day — with our staff and patients," remarked Dr. Stanley Fisch, RAHC pediatric program director.
"It's hard for experts (M.D.s) to remember how difficult it was at the beginning," said Bill Hendricson, education development specialist. "Students are dependent on you to guide their experiences."
The RAHC's faculty symposium covered topics including how to introduce a student to a practice, learners' needs, teaching efficiently, evaluating and giving feedback, ethical considerations, using the Preceptor Education Project workbooks, lectures and small group discussions. A major facet of the faculty training emphasized that students are adult learners.
Dr. Leonel Vela, RAHC dean, said the RAHC's curriculum will focus on the community's strength, allowing students to take advantage of unique pathologies found in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.