Community-Based Medical Education: An Interview with Gerard Clancy, MD

Selected Interviews from the Coastal Research Group’s Studentdoctor.net website.

This interview was conducted by William H. Burnett and first appeared 9 April, 2008.

(Subsequent to this interview, Dr Clancy assumed the presidency of the University of Oklahoma, Tulsa Branch)

With this interview, Student Doctor Network begins a new series of interviews relating to “community-based medical education” and with it a new forum on this subject. To launch the series, we interviewed Gerard Clancy, MD, the Dean of the newly established University of Oklahoma (OU) School of Community Medicine in Tulsa.

SDN: Dean Clancy, how do you envision your School of Community Medicine in Tulsa differing from a typical medical school?

Clancy: First, it is important to recognize that all the students in OU’s Community Medical School in Tulsa will graduate with the same MD degree as the students in OU’s traditionally organized medical school in Oklahoma City. They will learn the basic core information about medicine that they need to be successful as a physician.

But the information will be organized and taught in an entirely different way. Instead of being as a group of discrete subjects the subject matter will be organized around the principals of population medicine and community medicine.

SDN: Would you define those terms for our readers?

Clancy: Sure. Population medicine looks at the frequency of diseases and rates of mortality by disease, either for the general population or a particular subset of it (such as the residents of a geographical area, ethnicity, or income level). Community medicine would look at the disparities between one group and the population as a whole or perhaps another group.

SDN: For those persons not familiar with Oklahoma, is that a place where health disparities between communities are very pronounced?

Clancy: Although I am sure you will find health care disparities in communities everywhere in the United States, we were shocked when we began to study and then comprehend how great the differences in health status are from one part of Tulsa County to another. There is a high level of need throughout Eastern Oklahoma.

SDN: How will your medical school incorporate community medicine into the curriculum?

Clancy: First, we are recruiting faculty who are universally in agreement with the need to have medical students involved in providing care in communities of need from the earliest point in their education. We are collectively organizing a curriculum that “fast tracks” the students out of the medical school into community-based practice sites. As an additional feature, we will have a “loan repayment for service” plan that will give students the option for paying off their loans in a loan repayment system operated by the University of Oklahoma.

We have enlisted the help of experts nationally, and already have had retreats to develop our plans. Also, the new school is not being created out of thin air, but is being built on the existing University of Oklahoma medical school branch in Tulsa.

SDN: Are students to be involved in the development of plans for your school and its curriculum?

Clancy: Yes, OU medical students have been a driving force in creating the school. We have had high levels of student involvement in community health centers operated by the OU Medical School Tulsa Branch. They will continue to be involved in all the major elements of the plans.

SDN: Do funds exist to pay for all of these innovations?

Clancy: We have received a 50 million endowment, which includes 35 million to create endowed faculty positions, and an additional $15 million split between faculty recruitment and a loan repayment fund for the school’s medical students. As the school achieves success, and it will, we expect that our success will be recognized and our efforts supported by the people of Oklahoma and the alumni of the University of Oklahoma.

SDN: How will you implement these ideas?

Clancy: We are determined to select medical school classes that are truly interested in our approach to medical education – to learn the content of medicine, but to understand it in the context of the many factors that affect a person’s health. Those factors can include where the person lives, and how ethnicity, language and family situation.

SDN: Is there a way for persons interested in finding out more about your school?

Clancy: Yes, we will be very happy to respond to questions through the studentdoctor.net forums.

[ Visit the new SDN Community Medicine forum ]

Both myself and members of the OU faculty and student body expect to participate in the new studentdoctor.net forum on community-based medical education. We certainly will be interested in connecting with medical school applicants that share our vision of how physicians should be trained.