Students at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine have the opportunity to learn early in their medical education what being a family physician entails as part of the Clinically Integrated Introductory Course (CLINIC).

Published Dec 12th, 2019

By Lindsay Lyle
lalyle@health.southalabama.edu

Students at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine have the opportunity to learn early in their medical education what being a family physician entails as part of the Clinically Integrated Introductory Course (CLINIC).

Family medicine is just one field that medical students are exposed to in CLINIC, which provides first- and second-year students with experiences in career exploration as they rotate through various specialties. Traditionally, medical students begin clinical rotations during the third and fourth years of medical school.

“Family practice is great because you get to see a variety of patients with a wide spectrum of symptoms,” said first-year USA medical student Pooja Revanna. “You can see an entire family starting from a child to their grandparent. It’s a long-term relationship you keep with these patients and trust is extremely important.”

Richard Jason Valentine, M.D., is a family medicine physician in private practice in Saraland, Ala. He serves as a CLINIC preceptor for USA medical students. “Being a preceptor gives me a chance to teach students the craft of being a family physician,” he said. “I am able to show them the variety of care that family medicine offers – from inpatient hospital care to acute illness and injury in the clinic through chronic disease management and industrial medicine.”

Valentine said students are welcomed into the office and quickly integrate into the care team, becoming the initial contact with patients on their first day of clinic.

“Dr. Valentine allowed us first go to the patient independently, and then after visiting the patient, we would go together,” said Chris Johnson, another first-year medical student at USA. “It was very much like the standardized patient encounters we practice, just less formal.”

The experience helped Johnson become more comfortable with gathering patient history and relaying that information to the attending physician in a concise manner, he said.

Revanna said she initially thought she would mostly shadow Valentine, “but I realized early on that I would be actually interacting with these patients one on one. I am grateful for that because I learned a great amount about how you talk to patients in the real world and the problems you’ll face.”

Valentine, who graduated from the USA College of Medicine in 2001, said he discovered his love of teaching during his residency at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. After returning to the Mobile area and establishing his practice, he reached out to Allen Perkins, M.D., professor and chair of family medicine, to see if the department needed any preceptors.

“I’ve had a student every block since the class of 2011 and have loved every minute of it, and in a way I have been paying back the opportunity given to me by others,” Valentine said. “The most rewarding aspect has been helping students towards their goal of graduation and into their particular specialty, hopefully instilling them with a respect for the art of medicine, patient relationships, as well as understanding the unique and difficult role that family physicians fill.”

To learn more about CLINIC or becoming a preceptor, contact Candis Patterson at (251) 460-7139 or cpatterson@southalabama.edu, or Elizabeth Minto, M.D., at leminto@health.southalabama.edu.

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