South Florida Hospital News
Sunday September 22, 2019
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June 2011 - Volume 7 - Issue 12

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St. Mary’s Clerkships Bring Medicine to Life for University of Vermont Students

Aiming to improve the future of health care in Palm Beach County, St. Mary’s Medical Center has teamed up with the University of Vermont (UVM) College of Medicine in Burlington to give future physicians the opportunity to participate in clinical education alongside practicing doctors in the local community.

The program began as a pilot in March 2010 with two medical students in a Pediatric clerkship. It has been so successful that it was expanded in March 2011 to include 12 students in six different clinical subspecialties. The students rotate through St. Mary’s every seven weeks.
 

(l-r) Dr. Steven Schultz, Tiffany Kuo, and Christopher Cahill.

“Both UVM and St. Mary’s have been very supportive of the program, and we are pleased with its success in such a short time,” said Dr. Steven Shultz, Director of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at St. Mary’s, who is serving as the local director of the clerkship program. “The diverse patient population in West Palm Beach is offering students clinical experiences they would not get at other program site hospitals in New England.”
 
The clerkship has given third-year UVM medical student Chris Cahill firsthand knowledge about the various subspecialties, as well as an opportunity to practice his Spanish. Cahill first completed an Ob/Gyn rotation and then moved to a Surgery rotation.
“It’s very beneficial to learn what the different specialties are like,” he said. “You get so many more details when you follow patients firsthand – medicine comes to life more than just words on a page.”
 
A typical day in his Surgery clerkship begins around 7:00 a.m. when he free rounds with the doctors, followed by an hour lecture. “Then we catch up with the trauma team – the general and vascular surgeons who are responsible for us,” he said. “We either round with them or go to the OR, where we can choose whatever surgery is interesting to us that day. We get to scrub on almost every case. The diseases and types of patients I’m seeing here are different from those I would see in Vermont.”
 
Cahill says he has also benefited from the opportunity to sit down and talk to patients and offer them some extra time from the medical team. “I’ve also enjoyed the opportunity to practice my Spanish every day and learn more Spanish medical terms,” he said.
 
Tiffany Kuo, a UVM student from California, recently completed a Pediatric clerkship at St. Mary’s and moved on to an Ob/Gyn rotation. She will be returning in August for two more rotations – this time in Internal Medicine and Neurology.
 
“I’ve had such positive experiences with this program,” she said. “The medical team here has been amazing. The doctors came up with a plan for what the medical students would do, and everybody has a clear understanding of that.”
 
Kuo has been to several different locations in her Ob/Gyn rotation, including the labor and delivery floor, the OR for C-Sections, and outside the hospital to a high-risk clinic, where she has seen patients with conditions that make pregnancy hazardous to the mother’s health.
 
“I think this clerkship has been very well organized,” Kuo said. “I have gotten the most out of it in terms of clinical experiences. The doctors have told us that they are training us as if we were interns. Everyone will either answer my questions, or point me in the right place to get the answers.”
 
Dr. Schultz noted that evaluation of the program is a continuing process. “Every time we have an exchange of students, we get feedback from both students and physicians so we can tweak the program to make it enjoyable and effective for both.”
 
He noted that in addition to the clerkship, St. Mary’s has been asked to create a 4th year elective program where students can be exposed to other subspecialties. Fourth-year students will do a month in the ER, Interventional Neurology and Pediatric Orthopedic Surgery.
 
“The first student who started with us a year ago came back to do a 4th year elective,” said Dr. Schultz. “That tells us we’re doing a good teaching job. Somewhere down the line, my prediction is that there will be an opportunity to have residents at St. Mary’s. That also solidifies opportunities for residents to continue and become attending physicians in West Palm Beach.”
For more information about the St. Marys clerkship program, contact Michelle Vincent of St. Mary’s MedicalCenter at (561) 882-4534.
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