I was at a meeting of Family Medicine Department Chairs in Tuscon Arizona this past week. This is an exceptional meeting for hearing what other departments are doing regarding educating medical students, developing research activities around primary care, and learning about topics of importance to primary care (the Patient Centered Medical Home was the featured topic of the meeting). The reason to go to these meetings is to 1) confirm that you are doing stuff that others are doing and doing it better than they  2) confirm that you were correct in not doing stuff that seemed important at the time but you were convinced it would lead to disaster or 3) figure out how to make up for lost time when starting a task that should have been initiated several years ago.

This particular meeting featured a panel of exceptional students from the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tuscon talking about what we (as educators) can do to foster interest in primary care. They were all committed to primary care and it was refreshing to hear from these idealistic students. Many of them were from rural Arizona or had life experiences that led them to enter medicine to make a difference in their patient’s lives. They did confess to being an exception in their class, with the majority of their fellow students focusing on materials needed for the test (the here and now) as opposed to the big picture.

 I confess to having a pang of regret. Our students did not to me seem so idealistic when our department faculty attempt to offer instruction in social issues as a part of the Fundamentals of Doctoring course here in Mobile. I wondered if perhaps our school is not as effective as other schools in fostering an attitude of social justice. I wondered if our students were too focused on the high stakes exam (NBME Step I) to get the big picture we were trying to draw for them. That was why I was pleased to receive a very nice e-mail today thanking my department for the perspective we bring to the 1st and 2nd year of medical school. It made me feel that maybe our efforts are worthwhile.

A long way of asking you to thank one of your teachers today…it’ll make them feel better.