Wrangell, Alaska, has been chosen to become the newest family medicine clerkship site for the University of Washington School of Medicine. A clerkship is a formal, clinical training course for advanced medical students. The first medical student will be assigned to a six-week clerkship in Wrangell in the summer of 2000.
Wrangell family physician Dr. Dave McCandless will be the site coordinator. Other local family physicians who will teach the clerkship include Dr. Tim Brieske, Dr. Sheila Patel and Dr. Lynn Prysunska, all of the Wrangell Medical Center’s Stikine Family Clinic. Several community agencies also will participate in the clerkship training.
Wrangell has served this summer and in the past as a Rural/Underserved Opportunities Program (R/UOP) site for the University of Washington School of Medicine. R/UOP is a voluntary introduction to small-town or inner-city practice for beginning medical students and encourages them to consider careers serving populations that lack adequate health care.
In contrast, the family medicine clerkship is a required clinical course. During the clerkship, students learn a primary-care approach to diagnosing and managing common medical problems while gaining an understanding of the family physician’s role in the health-care system. Wrangell, because of its remote location, will expose clerkship students to the lives of rural family doctors, who often are called upon to provide a great variety of medical services and handle severe or complex illnesses or injuries, in addition to caring for common medical conditions. Students in Wrangell will experience the full spectrum of family practice, from delivering babies to caring for elderly patients.
Wrangell is joining 26 other Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho locations where the requirement is offered. Dr. Tom Greer, associate professor of family medicine and a family physician at University of Washington Medical Center, directs the medical student education section of the University of Washington’s Department of Family Medicine, which oversees all the family medicine teaching sites in the five-state region.
Largely because of the excellent, realistic education in family practice that medical students receive at these community sites, the University of Washington’s teaching program in family medicine has been ranked No. 1 in the nation for the past six years in U.S. News & World Report’s reputational surveys. In addition, the University of Washington School of Medicine consistently ranks as the nation’s No. 1 primary-care medical school.
The new Alaska clerkship is part of the WWAMI regional medical education program, a partnership among the states of Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho –the WWAMI states– to train physicians for areas of need.
Wrangell was picked from among several Alaska towns that expressed an interest in serving as a family medicine clerkship site. The selection, which came after a five-member UW School of Medicine review team visited the finalist sites, was made with input from the Alaska State Medical Society, the Alaska WWAMI Program, and an Alaskan medical student.
Alaska has been a partner with the UW School of Medicine in the WWAMI Program since 1971. Medical students from Alaska take their first year of medical school courses at the University of Alaska-Anchorage, then join their classmates in Seattle for the second-year courses. Third- and fourth-year clerkships are offered across the five-state region. Assistant Dean Dr. Mike Dimino of Anchorage directs the WWAMI Program in Alaska, and family physician Dr. Tom Nighswander, also of Anchorage, coordinates WWAMI’s clinical training offerings throughout Alaska.