Regional Medical Partnership Provides Medical Students Early Exposure to Patient Care

A new partnership between Albany Medical College and several regional health organizations provides a unique opportunity for medical students to gain early clinical exposure.

The Introductory Longitudinal Clerkship (ILC), part of the Medical College’s major curriculum modification, places first year medical students with primary care physicians throughout the community. Since January, 145 medical students have attended regular half-day sessions with primary care physicians from Community Care Physicians, St. Peter’s Health Partners (SPHP), the Stratton VA Medical Center, Albany Med Health System members Columbia Memorial Health and Saratoga Hospital, as well as several private practices.

The ILC gives students the opportunity to work with the same physician preceptors as they provide care to their patients over time. Traditionally, medical students would not start clinical patient care training until the third year of medical school.

“Such early longitudinal clinical experiences with positive physician role models have been shown to help students develop foundational clinical skills, self-confidence, empathy toward patients, and a sense of professional identity,” said Alan Boulos, MD ’94, The Lynne and Mark D. Groban, MD ‘67 Distinguished Dean of Albany Medical College. “We’re grateful to our community partners who have so generously volunteered their time to help us educate the next generation of physicians.”

This early exposure to patient care has also been shown to promote student career interest in primary care fields such as family practice, internal medicine, and pediatrics. This is of particular importance to area health organizations and the medical community as they try to meet the challenges of an ongoing shortage of primary care physicians.

The organizations participating recognize the mutual benefit that such a strategic medical education partnership provides.

“Community Care Physicians has long been committed to educating the physicians and advanced care practitioners of the future both in our offices and in the Family Practice and Radiology Training programs we share with Albany Medical Center. We have been pleased to extend our collaboration to include the Longitudinal Clerkship,” said Ronald V. Musto, MD, MPH, MBA, deputy CEO and internist, Community Care Physicians. “The looming physician shortage, particularly in the Capital Region, is well known. We encourage more practices to familiarize students early in their careers not only to the rewards of practicing medicine, but of practicing medicine in the Capital Region.”

"St. Peter's Health Partners Medical Associates was pleased to support Albany Medical College this year with its inaugural clerkship program for first year medical students," said William Kowal, MD, a primary care physician with SPHP Medical Arts and the physician group's chief medical officer. "During my time as a medical student, the impact that teachers and mentors had on my growth and development as a physician cannot be overstated. Given the current nationwide shortage of future physicians choosing to go into primary and family care, providing this cohort an opportunity to explore the many career opportunities available in this care setting was a true privilege."

First-year Albany Medical College students, who have completed the first semester of the ILC, have embraced the new clerkship as an opportunity to apply their growing medical knowledge to patient care at an early point in their education.

“ILC allows me to connect the material I am learning about in lectures at school to real people with real stories,” said first year student Emily Decocker. “This experience reaffirms my interest in primary care as it constantly demonstrates to me how rewarding it is to empower patients along their health care journeys.”

“Being in the clinic and applying what I've learned in class not only solidifies my knowledge but also ignites my passion for continuous growth. The satisfaction of comprehending patients' conditions, coupled with the encouragement from both the patients themselves and Dr. Kowal, serves as fuel for my determination to become an extraordinary doctor and have profoundly deepened my interest in primary care,” said first year student Malena Allbright. “Furthermore, having the privilege to learn from an esteemed, authentic, and compassionate physician like Dr. Kowal has rendered this experience invaluable, enriching my journey in immeasurable ways.”

Students will continue their clerkships during the first semester of their second year from August until December.