The Importance of Community Health

Resident Physicians: Bridging the Gap between Patient and Community

The Importance of Community Health

Guest Blog By: Kate Scheffler

A typical physician resident program teaches the necessary skills to become a practicing physician while focusing on experiences within the hospital setting. Although typical programs are good, the resident physician program offered at Mayo Clinic is pushing physicians to become better. Physician residents enrolled in Mayo Clinic's family medicine program are experiencing all of these aspects and much more. To accomplish Mayo Clinic's vision to train world class physicians, a community engagement segment has been integrated into the curriculum of the resident physician program. The program allows residents opportunities to interact with members of the community in a variety of ways. The mission is that these physicians will become world class family leaders that will ultimately improve the health and wellness of not only their patients, but also the community in which they serve.

Robert Bonacci, M.D., program director for the family medicine residency, oversees the residents in their education and training over the three years that they are in the program. While discussing the reason behind the shift of curriculum to one that focuses more on community engagement, Dr. Bonacci commented, “The individual patients are important, but we also wanted to look at ways to improve health at a community level. We value families and how they can impact an individual’s health.”

In order to emphasize the importance of community health, Mayo Clinic’s family resident physicians are now required to engage in the community by conducting home visits, giving presentations at local schools, and working in a part-time clinic in Dodge Center. This shift began a few years ago when resident students showed interest in giving health talks at school districts throughout Dodge County. The talks were so popular that the idea has since grown into an experience that nearly every school district in Dodge County takes advantage of; the impact of these talks has had positive reviews from the community. These informative talks allow members of the community to see that the work of physicians has no borders, it makes the residents readily accessible to the community in a personable way.  In addition to giving health talks at schools, resident physicians also staff The Center Clinic in Dodge Center, which is open a few times a month and provides low cost or free health services to the community. Although the work that they do is extensive, the residents say that the more opportunities to become involved with the community the better. They have now reached out to all of the districts in Dodge County. Through these experiences, resident physicians are able to understand the importance of embracing a community and their overall health.

In the coming years, Dr. Bonacci sees many additional opportunities for further community involvement in the program. As part of their goal of training physicians who can be community responsive, the program would like to look at what steps would need to be taken in order to make Dodge County the healthiest county in Minnesota. Dr. Bonacci believes that in order to reach these goals, it is necessary to train physicians that are able to tailor to the needs of the community by giving resident physicians the experience necessary to recognize those needs. Although this project continues to be a work in progress, the program has already had a positive impact on the community.

Kate Scheffler

Kate Scheffler is a contributing writer from the University of Minnesota Rochester.