The week of October 12, 2015 will be one that I remember for a while, because it was a time when the Primary Care and Family Medicine community came together during a crisis in medical education. Initially, it was announced that the Family Medicine residency program would be closing at New York Presbyterian hospital. This program is affiliated with Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Many of us on the outside made our speculations, especially at this blog post. However, no one really knew was going on in the inside - until now. Thanks so much to Ariel Franks for being a guest on Mike Sevilla Radio Program Episode 344. Ariel is a senior medical student and she shared her first person perspective on the podcast.
"It was Monday, and I remember receiving a text message along the lines of 'I just heard something weird, did you hear this?" (beginning 13:03 in the podcast) "My initial reaction was shock," she continued, "All of us were thinking, "what does this really mean?'" Over the next few minutes during the podcast, you can hear the anguish and confusion in her voice as she and hear colleagues are trying to gain meaning from the announcement.
As outlined in this article from the Columbia Spectator, there was a town hall meeting that was called and the medical students themselves exhibited leadership in making their voice be heard. "It was really inspiring to be in the room with these like 300 people in this lecture hall. There were so many people there supporting Family Medicine and questioning the decision." (around 25:45 in the podcast) "I think hopefully this shows that there is increasing interest in Primary Care. We need more Primary Care. There is huge support for it, even if people are not going into it."
I also point you to this Op-Ed piece from AAFP.org that was written by the Residents of Columbia University/New York Presbyterian's Family Medicine Residency Program. The article is entitled, "Trial By Firings: Lessons in Organizing at New York Presbyterian." At the end of this piece, the residents are advocating the twitter hashtag #GrowFamilyMedicine and to follow them on twitter at @NYP_FamMed (by the way, there is an open invitation for any resident in the program to be a guest on the program to share additional comments aside from the essay)
Here are some closing thoughts from this student (around 34:22 in the podcast) "I think that one thing this has brought attention to is that there is a myth that Family Medicine is irrelevant on the east coast... And, I just adamantly have to fight that thought and say that is not the case. There is clearly a role for Family Medicine in urban underserved areas and urban areas in general. I think our student body is saying that very clearly... Family Medicine needs to show that there's a role in medical education, and in being medical providers in the future. I think that lack of understanding is part of the reason why someone thought that they could do away with this an no one would care. We will continue to fight and try to make a Department of Family Medicine. That would be vital at this point."
I am so impressed by the poise and the courage of this student in speaking out like this. I know that when I was a senior medical student, I was no way this articulate in presenting my point of view, especially in a crisis situation like this. I applaud her and all of the medical students at Columbia. I thought that it was social media that helped turned the tide on this issue. As I am learning more, I'm finding out that the student voice is strong on this campus, and I'm inspired by these future leaders in our profession. I hope to share with you more stories from Columbia and NY Presbyterian in future podcasts. We, as a Primary Care and Family Medicine community, cannot let this story fade away. We must keep talking and tweeting about it, because if we do not, then we will let someone else tell our story...