Facilitating Collaboration Among Academic Generalist Disciplines

The United States requires a coherent, collaborative system to train and support primary care physicians to meet the country's health care needs. The authors of this article suggest that this goal can only be met through genuine collaboration among academic generalist disciplines—general pediatrics, general internal medicine and family medicine. Faculty members from all three disciplines employ similar approaches to diagnosis, treatment and professional roles, but their academic organizational structure isolates them from one another. In addition, generalist faculty members are burdened with administrative demands and they compete for financial resources. The article takes the position that generalist research can benefit from combining resources and sharing expertise across disciplines. Some of the actions proposed include: developing innovative interdisciplinary medical student and resident training models; creating joint appointments and interdisciplinary electives; and clinical collaboration to allow academic generalist divisions and departments to compete more effectively with local medical groups, expand their pool of clinician-educators, and elevate the stature of primary care within the academic setting. By uniting forces in advocacy, national organizations representing the three generalist disciplines can further promote interdisciplinary goals. Finally, the authors elaborate seven steps to achieving collaboration among the generalist disciplines within and across academic institutions nationally.