Packing a Punch to Primary Care

April 2, 2011

Move over, Surgery and Emergency Medicine. Primary Care is where the excitement is these days, a group of 20 students in GW’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences came to believe during a special hands-on event at the GW Hospital in January.

The session, supported by an “Innovations in Primary Care Practice” grant from the American Medical Student Foundation (AMSA), used sonography to teach students how innovative applications in primary care are driven by adopting new technologies.

“I never really imagined sonography as a primary care tool, but I now can really appreciate its value for patient education,” said Jessica Sheingold, a second-year medical student participant. As co-director of the GW Health, Education, and Active Living (HEALing) clinic, a multidisciplinary student-run clinic that provides primary care to residents of the Howard Shaw and Anacostia neighborhoods regardless of insurance status or ability to pay, Sheingold and the HEALing clinic steering committee were responsible for achieving the grant.

The day kicked off with a presentation by Keith Boniface, M.D., associate professor of Emergency Medicine, who presented students with an overview of sonogram technology. Using clinical cases as examples, he highlighted the technology’s vast array of applications. Later, the students put their new skills to the test in GW's Clinical Learning and Simulation Skills (CLASS) Center, where they broke into small groups and practiced the techniques on one another.

“As first- and second-year medical students, we spend a lot of time focusing on physical diagnostic skills, but we rarely have the chance to gain experience using newer technology,” added Sheingold. “The experience really gave us a head start for our clinical years.”

The activities also emphasized the growing role of mobile and other new technologies in all clinical areas, said Lisa Alexander, P.A., Ed.D., M.P.H., assistant dean for Community-Based Partnerships, who helped to organize the event. “With the expanded development and dissemination of hand-held devices, it is entirely plausible that these innovative technologies will become more widely used in various medical settings outside of the radiology department,” she said. “As a result, the GW Medical Center faculty is encouraging these types of training opportunities for all levels of learners.”

Other faculty supervisors included Claudia Ranniger, M.D., Ph.D., medical director of the CLASS Center and assistant professor of Emergency Medicine; Catheeja Ismail, assistant professor of Radiology; and Howard Straker, P.A., assistant professor of Health Care Sciences.

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