Family Medicine from the First to the Final Year of Undergraduate Medical Training: Considerations about an Educational Proposal to Integrate Service-Learning into the Curriculum
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ABSTRACT Medical education has been heavily debated in both national and international contexts due to changes in society and public health demands. In Brazil, it is postulated that learning in Primary Health Care (PHC) should occur throughout the entire medical course. Learning in PHC has faced some barriers such as inadequate environment for medical practice, including a lack of supervisors and general practitioners with insufficient training to assist students, lack of lecturers with expertise in the area, and resistance from traditional faculties to include PHC in the curriculum. This paper addresses an educational model to include PHC and family medicine in a medical school curriculum in the city of São Paulo, Brazil. Furthermore, we describe the challenges of tying in educational and managerial objectives in the context of primary care services, and how to overcome such challenges. Our proposal is based on using educational objectives to develop student competencies (knowledge, skills and attitudes) so they can provide comprehensive care as regards the individual’s background (social, family and environmental). Students are exposed to increasingly complex educational content that requires connecting new knowledge to previous knowledge. The innovative aspect of this educational project is its integration of planning and educational management, involving the following strategies to achieve a better quality learning process: (1) Students in primary care services from the first to the last semester of the course; (2) Hiring family doctors as faculty members; (3) Integrating PHC and family medicine with the contents of other subjects such as epidemiology, public health policies and evidenced-based medicine; (4) Using problem-solving methodologies suitable both to the studied theme and to student and lecturer profiles; (5) Formative evaluations; (6) Improving teaching skills for lecturers and field supervisors; (7) Implementing practices to encourage students to work in multi-professional teams; (8) Motivating students to take part in interchange programs with national and international institutions; and (9) Encouraging the publications of books, scientific papers and research into PHC and family medicine. Several factors facilitate the success of this educational proposal, including: PHC and family medicine being underlying matters in the political-pedagogical faculty project; the educational setting being that of an institution with a long history of health education, public care provision and contributions to service-learning integration; the close relationship between health service managers, lecturers and supervisors, which facilitates coordination between the theoretical content and practice in PHC; the investments made to develop supervisor teaching skills, to support their participation in the debate about relevant family medicine content, and in the discussion about integrating theory with practice; and finally the human resource policies that raise the value of family doctors who are also supervisors. We hope this experience contributes to enhancing the debate about PHC and family medicine educational models in medical courses, and the related challenges and possibilities within medical training.