Exploring the Specialty of Family Medicine

“You come home tired but satisfied every day,” says Miah Brawley, reflecting on her experience in the Ohio Academy of Family Physicians Foundation’s Leroy A. Rogers, M.D., Preceptorship Program. Brawley and Laura Wilburn (shown at left and right, respectively in the photo), both second-year students in the College of Medicine, were selected for a month-long, hands-on experience that they completed over the summer.

Janice Spalding, M.D., a professor of family and community medicine, says the preceptorship program’s goal is to better familiarize first and second-year medicine students with primary care and family medicine by working alongside a practicing family physician. “Many people don’t realize that family medicine, in fact, is a specialty,” said Dr. Spalding. This year, a total of five NEOMED students participated in the preceptorship program, including Paige Schertzinger, Renee Brumbaugh and Ryan Mifflin, all second-year students in the College of Medicine.  

Throughout the preceptorship, students develop skills in providing primary ambulatory care, including how to take vital signs, conduct general adult physical examinations and interview patients.

By partnering with NEOMED alumnus Michael Sevilla, M.D. (’98), a family physician in Salem, Ohio, Wilburn learned about the health impact of companion animals. She was pleasantly surprised how willingly patients engaged in conversation when asked about their animals. “Pets are the gateway to conversation,” Wilburn notes. She also experienced the importance of continuity of care when she observed the removal of a patient’s cyst and then the follow-up care that was provided.

For Brawley, the program provided the opportunity to implement a pilot study examining the factors of uncontrolled hypertension with her preceptor Anne Valeri White, D.O., a clinical assistant professor of family and community medicine. She also had the opportunity to witness two births.

The preceptorship program hasn’t been the only contributor to Brawley and Wilburn’s passion for primary care. Both have dedicated their time to organizations and programs on campus. Brawley serves as the co-president of the Family Medicine Interest Group (FMIG); Wilburn serves as the co-president of the Rural Medicine Interest Group and has also committed to the four-year Rural Medical Education (RMED) Pathway.  

The preceptorship fulfilled its mission and then some, according to Brawley and Wilburn. It prepared them to take concepts they had learned about in lectures and apply them to everyday tasks they will complete in the future at clinics and hospitals, such as patient interviewing and recording vital signs. Brawley and Wilburn both agreed they benefitted the most from the one-on-one patient interaction, which built their confidence and confirmed to them that for them, family practice is the right choice.   

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