Eric Walford, MD: Preparing the next generation
Longitudinal clinical training gives med students quality time with patients
As we get closer to wrapping up the main initiatives of our five-year curriculum transformation process in 2018, students and faculty continue to work together to shape innovative elements of our M.D. program. One of these major changes is the Branches, the final phase of the curriculum that students enter in the third year of med school. Upon entry, students choose one of four Branch options.
Eric Walford, M.D., directs the Longitudinal Clinic experience in the Patients and Populations Branch. Here, Dr. Walford answers seven questions about what it is like to pioneer a new program inspired by med students and the patients they will serve.
As the Longitudinal Clinic Director, I want students to experience firsthand the joys of being an outpatient doctor. While in the Branches, students have the opportunity to do a Longitudinal Clinic, which means they spend a half day per week with the same clinic and preceptor for an entire year. This is a unique experience that allows students to work with wonderful mentors and get to know patients during multiple visits.
While working with longitudinal students in my own clinic, I really enjoyed getting to know them on a personal level over the course of the year. The students, in general, have really enjoyed the Longitudinal Clinic experience, and I am excited to improve an already-great program.
The Longitudinal Clinics are a feature unique to the Patients and Populations branch. One of the goals of both the P&P branch and Longitudinal Clinic is to establish meaningful long-term relationships with patients. Anyone who is interested in developing these types of close relationships, whether it be in primary care or specialty care, would fit well in the P&P branch.
I have really enjoyed developing some new features for the Longitudinal Clinics. In particular, I have developed a “patient panel” for each student that is comprised of patients whom the student will have multiple interactions with, including in clinic, on the phone and in the hospital.
Since the Branches program is still in its infancy, I have been afforded a lot of flexibility in development of curriculum. This has allowed me to be very responsive to student input in developing experiences that meets the unique needs of each student.
The Longitudinal Clinic program is evolving every year. I look forward to piloting a new version of the Longitudinal Clinic that will be able to count as a student’s sub-internship. I also am excited about doing Longitudinal Clinics in some new specialties, including pediatric infectious disease and anesthesia.
Students are like undifferentiated cells (my biology professor from undergrad would appreciate this reference) in that that they are at a stage in their development where they can become literally anything. I enjoy helping mold students during the formative years of medical school and allowing them to uncover their own skills and aspirations.
One of the most unique features of the Branches is how customizable the experience is. If you have a very specific passion, the Branches can help you reach different goals within this area of interest. If you aren’t sure what direction you want to go, the Branch advisors can develop an experience that will help you refine your career path. It is truly a student-centered curriculum.