You never know how the choices you make today might dramatically affect your future, how a few seemingly insignificant weeks can alter the trajectory of your life. That’s the hope and the promise of the Texas Statewide Primary Care Preceptorship Program.
As Travis Bias, D.O., told TAFP’s Kate Alfano for an article in the fall 2010 edition of Texas Family Physician, he entered medical school expecting to become an orthopedic surgeon. He worried about the debt he would accrue during his medical education and believed he’d have to pursue a more lucrative specialty to pay it off more quickly.
Then he completed his family medicine preceptorship as a requirement of his medical school curriculum, and now, Bias is a family doctor.
Alfano wrote, “[Bias’] preceptor earned a generous salary his first year out of residency and had a well-run, business-savvy practice. Seeing this made it seem ‘easy,’ Bias says. ‘It was the only reason I thought about family medicine. … The preceptorship is not to teach you medicine; it’s to teach you about the real world of medicine, the business of medicine, the humanitarian side of medicine.”’
The TSPCPP is designed to place medical students in primary care clinics with preceptors who exhibit the joy, satisfaction, and variety of primary care careers. In 1980, The Texas Statewide Family Medicine Preceptorship Program placed its first class of medical students with preceptors. Fifteen years later, the General Internal Medicine Statewide Preceptorship Program and the General Pediatric Preceptorship Program were established, forming the triumvirate that would come to be called the TSPCPP. More than 9,000 students have rotated through primary care preceptorships across the state because of these programs.
After years of injurious cuts in state support, the Legislature eliminated all funding for the TSPCPP last session, leaving the program’s future in jeopardy. The TAFP Board of Directors refused to let the program close, voting to take over the administrative duties of the program. Similarly moved to action, the TAFP Foundation Board of Trustees voted to begin collecting donations to fund new preceptorship stipends starting in 2013.
These are laudable efforts, but if the state is to overcome its shortage of primary care physicians, programs like TSPCPP must again become budgetary priorities. As TAFP prepares for the next legislative session, we have to be able to tell lawmakers why TSPCPP is important to our primary care infrastructure. We have statistics. We need your stories.
Stories like that of Tina Corkran, M.D., who sent me an e-mail describing how she was torn between family medicine and obstetrics when she entered her family medicine rotation under Clarence Prihoda Jr., M.D.
“My daughter was 4 months old when I started medical school,” she wrote. “It was important for me to find a balance between family life and work life. Dr. Prihoda modeled that well. He invited me and my family to his house. … Seeing that a family medicine doctor could strike a good balance and make patient care important while still caring for a family sealed the deal. I haven't looked back. I love being a family doctor.”
If you have stories like Dr. Corkran’s or Dr. Bias’, you can help us make the case for reinvesting in the preceptorship program. Please contact me, Jonathan Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (512) 329-8666 ext. 26. For more information about the program, read “A small investment for a large return: TSPP.”
– Jonathan N