Fort Kent ~ Partnerships are not new to Northern Maine Medical Center (NMMC) however the most recent one is the first of its kind for the hospital. Peter Sirois, NMMC Chief Executive Officer and Sandra San Antonio, Director of Medical Practices have been communicating with Quinnipiac University’s Frank H. Netter School of Medicine for the past several months. The dialogue began in the Fall of 2016 when administrative personnel from Quinnipiac contacted NMMC to entertain the idea of bringing on medical students for clinical experience in a rural hospital and outpatient setting.
Traci Marquis-Eydman, MD, Associate Professor of Medical Services and Director of the Medical Student Home at the Netter Medical School said the issue of the lack of rural primary care in the country became highly evident to her when she attended the 2016 national conference for medical educators. Marquis-Eydman said, “The message I heard loud and clear was how critically important primary care is and how it has elevated the health of patients everywhere, except in rural America. I was disheartened to learn about the inequity of primary care resources in rural communities across the country.” At that point, Marquis-Eydman saw an opportunity to begin exploring options with her peers at the Medical School. Born and raised in Fort Kent, she made contact with the administrative team at NMMC and began a dialogue about how patients could gain value from such a collaboration agreement –the Netter Medical School could develop a rural track opportunity for students and NMMC could benefit from having students onsite as a recruiting tool. In addition, the NMMC Medical staff would have the opportunity to serve as faculty which supports job satisfaction and retention of physicians in the rural St. John Valley.
The result of the negotiations has resulted in a partnership with the School of Medicine which is being led by Dr. Kristin Hartt. Dr. Hartt, NMMC Medical Staff President and now Director of Medical Student Education said, “It is a win-win situation. Having students onsite brings an infusion of new life and vigor to the staff and the organization which can only benefit our patients. It keeps what we do every day fun and fresh.” As many as fourteen of NMMC’s Medical Staff are participating, with more coming on board in the coming months, to serve as mentors, educators and coaches for students.
At the start of April, the first fourth year students from the Frank H. Netter School of Medicine arrived at NMMC to complete a one month rotation. Fourth year medical students have already completed in-depth clinical education experiences through required clerkships in third year in family medicine, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, psychiatry, and surgery, in both ambulatory and inpatient settings. While at NMMC, fourth year students will have the opportunity to experience all of these clinical rotations, in a longitudinal setting and in one location. They will be assigned to experienced physicians and exposed to outpatient practices in both Fort Kent and Madawaska. Their experiences will include patient rounding with hospitalists in the acute care hospital setting; opportunities in obstetrics for labor, delivery and post partum care; pediatrics; endoscopy; surgery and exposure in the Emergency Department. Every other month, two or three new students will come to NMMC for similar experiences which include daily patient rounding and didactic learning opportunities such as teaching grand rounds.
Over the next one to two years, NMMC and Quinnipiac are planning discussions about the probability of adding another component to the partnership, that of the third year medical student rotation. NMMC physicians, Dr. Kristin Hartt and Dr. Michael Sullivan, have agreed to work closely with the faculty at the Netter School of Medicine to develop a longitudinal curriculum which will provide third year students with an innovative, alternative rural track to supplement their educational goals in clinical medicine. The longitudinal curriculum seeks to more accurately mimic the actual practice of physicians, particularly primary care physicians in a rural setting. Previous studies at other institutions have demonstrated that students who participate in this type of rural track curriculum are more likely to choose a career in primary care and establish a practice in a rural setting. Peter Sirois, NMMC CEO, said, “Over the years, we have lost physicians because they wanted to pursue teaching opportunities. Our goal with the Quinnipiac partnership supports physician retention as well as a component of recruitment for new physicians.” In the longitudinal curriculum, third year students would be with the organization for a period of eight months and during that time would be required to complete clinical experiences which consist of an longitudinal exposure to primary care, surgical, emergency medicine, and inpatient specialties. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, a reliance on preventative and primary care improves the health outcomes of patients and lowers healthcare costs.
Established in 2010 following the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Quinnipiac was designed with an eye toward the future. Anticipating the nation’s aging population, an increasing demand for medical professionals and a commitment to primary care, the University was determined to provide students with inter-professional opportunities. The four year medicine program provides a solid foundation in the fundamentals of the basic sciences and clinical medicine with an emphasis on evidence-based care. The Frank H. Netter Medical Program graduated its first class of four year medical students this spring.
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