BY MICHELLE MILLER
The second class of Columbia- Bassett medical students is in Cooperstown to experience learningin a whole new way. Some had an early wakeup call Monday morning to go work on Roger Erway’s farm in Middlefield, others worked in a leather store in Fly Creek and at a local health food store, while some helped build a barn roof.
The students spent Tuesday at Springbrook, Pathfinder Village, The Otsego Manor, Fox Rehabilitation Center and the Thanksgiving Home to learn about people living with assistance.
All of this was a part of a medical program established in 2009.
Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and Bassett Medical Center joined forces to launch a new model of medicaltraining to address the severe short age of rural physicians and train a new generation of doctors capable of leading health systems that promote both quality of practice and costeffective delivery of care. According to a Bassett media release, five woman and five men were selected to the program out of a pool of 698 applicants from all over the U.S. Henry Weil, Columbia’s assistant dean for education at Bassett, said the goal of the program is to provide experiences that will help students develop into different a kind of doctor to be very-well rounded and to learn from prospective patients.
“They need to learn who these people are, what their goals are and what they are looking for from their health care,” Weil said.
Weil said American healt care is a $2.7 trillion dollar industry and doctors make 90 percent of the decisions of where money is spent, but get no training in management. He said about $800 billion a year in healthcare costs is wasted, so he feels it is importantto make sure doctors are also good managers.
“If you don’t understand what people do in their daily life, how do you know how totreat them?” asked Weil. For example, Weil said a farmer cannot afford to be laid up during hay season unless it is 100 percent necessary.
Weil said the goal is helping the young physicians see their patients as people first in the environment where they live and work.
David Chapel, who graduated from the University of Michigan, was one of the students who got up at sunrise to work on the Erway Farm. Chapel said he and fellow student Alana Aylward, who graduated from New York University, arrived at the farm at 5:30 a.m. in time to help with the first milking. He said they swept out the hay from the night before and put down fresh hay. Chapel said they then fed the calves milk replacer from buckets. When the milking was done, Chapel said they turned the cows outto pasture and then cleaned barn and put down silage for the second milking.
According to Chapel, they were given a brief break for breakfast, which included bacon, eggs and toast. After breakfast, Chapel said, they went to the Red Creek barns and moved two cows from the herd there back to the milking herd. The students were then provided lunch, according to Chapel.
He said they went back to Red Creek barns and “pitched a considerable amount of loose hay” for use as bedding and to make room for storage of round bales.
Chapel said the work is tiresome, but he just dived in.
“I was most attracted to the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships with patients through Columbia- Bassett’s longitudinal patient experience during the major clinical year,” Chapel said. “Having grown up on a farmmyself, I was especially eager to do so in a rural environment.”
Chapel said he was impressed by Bassett’s organization, which is based around an integrated group practice of physicians, each of whom is paid on a salaried basis. “This physician payment model eliminates the toxic-forservice incentives that have contributed monumentally to America’s ever-increasing healthcare costs,” he said.
“I am honored to be a part of a group of 10 students chosen to participate in this program. Having met many of my classmates this week, I am amazed by the dynamism and diversity among the Columbia-Bassett students, and I am excited to grow and learn with them over the next four years,” Chapel added.
On Friday, the students will depart to Manhattanwhere they will spend 18 months. They will be back in Cooperstown for 2 1/2 years to get their clinical training.
Students will experience an urban health care setting and a rural health care environment, while being exposed to features not typically part of the medical school curriculum such as finance, risk management, patient safety, quality improvement and medical informatics. In addition to traditional first-year courses, the students attend monthly lectures by guest speakers focusing on systems, leadership, integration and management curriculum.
“The purpose it to encourage them to be mindful of learning about the American health system, what works, what doesn’t and what’s being contemplated in terms of changes,” Weil said. “We also want to continue to expose them to physician role modelsand talk to them about performance improvement and process reengineering.”
According to a media release, the SLIM component, which is unique to the Columbia-Bassett program, has been well received by the first class of students.
“It has been a phenomenal experience to be able to discuss problems and potential solutions in the health care industry with the high-powered doctors, hospital administrators, insurance representatives, and IT specialists that have come to speak with us,” Mark J. Harris, Class of 2014 and a graduate of Dartmouth College, said in the release. According to Walter Franck, Columbia’s senior associate dean at Bassett, The uniqueness of the Columbia-Bassett experience is attracting highly motivated and exceptionally talented students.
“Our faculty is very much looking forward to working with these aspiring physicians to develop their skills as doctors and, hopefully, leaders in rural medicine,” he said.
The Medical College Admissions Test scores of the second class of students to enroll in the Columbia-Bassett program average 36.2, among the highest average in the country. Weil said it only took 11 offers to get 10 students to participate.
Weil said the bedrock of attracting students to Columbia- Bassett is the longstanding reputation of Bassett’s clinical faculty for exceptional teaching of medical students in a caring, futuristic health delivery system.
“This combination – the opportunity to become both skilled clinicians and leaders of a better healthcare system of the future – is the key to bringing these wonderful students here, and may serve as a prototype for programs at other medical schools,” he said,
All 10 the students in the inaugural Columbia-Bassett Program class are spending their summer doing research, principally at Bassett, before beginning their final semester in Manhattan. Members of the Class of 2014 are expected to be back in Cooperstown in January 2012.