Mount Sinai Creates Department of Family Medicine to Encourage Primary Care

Sep 25, 2012, 12:00 PM

Many elite medical schools — Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Yale, among them — have no departments of family medicine to train students who want to specialize in primary care. Students interested in that field are instead trained to take care of seriously ill patients and are sometimes even discouraged by professors if they do not pursue a specialty, NPR reports.

But Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York is making a “fundamental change” in its mission. Previously ranked among the bottom 20 medical schools in the country when it comes to the number of primary care doctors it graduates, Mount Sinai had neither a department nor any family physicians on staff until this June.

Now, thanks to a partnership with the Institute for Family Health, the school employs primary care doctors from the Institute’s community clinics to teach students during all four years of medical school, offering primary care students a chance to learn the skills they’ll need in practice.

"I want to spend my career keeping people healthy rather than trying to bring them back from a very serious illness," Mount Sinai student Demetri Blanas told NPR. "I think it is what society needs right now, and that is important to me."

Neil Calman, president and CEO of the Institute for Family Health, called the partnership “a natural marriage.”

"I think people are finally realizing that the country will be bankrupt if we continue to admit people and readmit people for conditions that could be prevented with good primary care," he told NPR.

Listen to the story on NPR.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.