Friday, July 31, 2020

USA College of Medicine launches Primary Care Pathway Program

Allen Perkins, M.D., M.P.H., professor and chair of family medicine, serves as principal investigator for the Primary Care Pathway Program.
With the goal of improving healthcare for underserved populations, the University of South Alabama College of Medicine is launching a new educational track that will provide specialized training in primary care at local community health centers.

The Primary Care Pathway Program, funded by a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) totaling more than $6 million, will enroll up to 10 medical students per class for four years for specialized training. The USA College of Medicine was one of five institutions in the U.S. to receive grant funding from HRSA for the program.

“The program allows these medical students to focus their attention on primary care,” Allen Perkins, M.D., M.P.H., professor and chair of family medicine, who serves as the principal investigator for the project. “For the community, it’s huge. The program allows the USA College of Medicine to partner in the care of the underserved beyond the hospital at the community level.”

The goal is to increase the number of primary care physicians in underserved areas and ultimately improve the health of those populations, Perkins said. “Following residency, the hope is for these students to focus on primary care and practice in a setting where they care for the underserved,” he said.

The USA College of Medicine has a long track record of graduating physicians who practice in the state. More than 43 percent of the college’s alumni practice in Alabama, with 36 percent in underserved areas, 27 percent in primary care disciplines and 10 percent in rural areas.

Students will be chosen for the Primary Care Pathway Program based on an interest in primary care and a willingness to commit to the practice following residency training. Community partners, meanwhile, become fellows who are trained by USA College of Medicine faculty to teach and mentor medical students. The community partners include Franklin Medical Mall, Franklin Foley Family Health Center, Franklin Loxley Family Health Center, Semmes Family Health Center and Accordia Health in Bayou La Batre.

Under the program, students spend 20 days in a community-based primary care clinic during their first two years and complete a summer quality improvement project. During their third year, students are assigned to primary care clerkships in family medicine, internal medicine and pediatrics. They participate in a four-week elective at a community site and an acting internship in a primary care field.

Fourth-year students engage in a four-week primary care capstone practice management/leadership project and a four-week elective in basic science related to primary care. When they graduate, the students receive a special Primary Care Pathway notation on their diplomas.

Perkins said the Primary Care Pathway Program will also inform primary care training across the board at the USA College of Medicine. “For the broader student body, we will have faculty members who will be trained in population health and social determinants of health,” he said. “The instruction will be infused into the entire curriculum for all students.”

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