Med students to learn at ARH

Published 12:03 am Friday, April 26, 2013

Medical students will soon be doing rotations in Andalusia Regional Hospital as part of a program to recruit more doctors to rural hospitals.

Dr. Jimmy Adkisson of Brewton coordinates the placement of students in Covington, Escambia, Conecuh, Monroe and North Baldwin counties for Alabama Medical Education Consortium (AMEC). AMEC brings students from 10 medical schools across the country for clinical training, with the overall goal of recruiting physicians to choose primary care careers in medically underserved communities.

“Most medical students practice within a 60 to 75-mile radius of where they trained,” Adkisson said.

Students get more hands-on experience in smaller hospitals, the said. At a traditional teaching hospital, a physician would be followed by med students in their fourth, third, second and first years. The “pecking order” determines who is up close and sees the most, he said.

But in a hospital like Andalusia, a third-year student can have a front-row seat with a physician, and learn plenty of medicine, he said.

“There is great pathology in a small hospital, and really teachable cases,” he said.

Stacy Zimmerman will begin work in Andalusia next week, with Dr. Dawn Henderson as her preceptor.

Preceptors agree to work with students, and to “stay sharp” in their own fields, he said.

Zimmerman will actually live in the hospital for the next four weeks. And while her focus will be OB, Adkisson said it is likely that she will respond to other situations, as well.

While Zimmerman is the first student placed here, Adkisson said many more will come. Several local doctors have agreed to be preceptors, and Adkisson has from four to eight students in his area at any given time.

AMEC’s emphasis is on osteopathic medicine. Students complete the traditional four-year comprehensive medical education with an additional emphasis on disease prevention and treatment of the total person, rather than their disease alone. Many osteopathic physicians specialize in primary care fields such as family medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and emergency medicine.

At present, Adkisson said, there is a shortage of 45,000 physicians in the United States. When the Affordable Care Act adds approximately 30 million people into the health care pipeline with no additional people resources, the demand will intensify.

In 2009, three of AMEC’s 10 participating colleges expressed an interest in opening a branch campus in Alabama using AMEC’s clinical network. This led to the idea of Alabama developing its own College of Osteopathic Medicine (ACOM).

Several colleges and communities expressed an interest in the college, but Houston County came up with the money to make it a reality.

The Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine will be affiliated with Southeast Alabama Medical Center, and 150 students will begin study this August.

Adkisson said that when those students reach third-year status – in 2015 – there will be a constant flow of medical students into rural hospitals, including Andalusia’s.