From Policy to Community, Fellowships Reflect Health Care Continuum

Posted in GUMC Stories

JULY 18, 2014 – With perspectives ranging from the macro to the micro, two Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) fellowship programs share a common goal: to position physicians for success in increasingly diverse health care settings.

The Robert L. Phillips, Jr. Health Policy Fellowship and the Community Health Leadership Development Fellowship are housed in Georgetown’s department of family medicine .

Both aim to prepare fellows for careers in academic medicine and to train them for leadership positions in diverse heath care settings, according to James Welsh, MD , chairman of the department of family medicine. Yet while built around similar core components of patient care, teaching and research, each brings a very different perspective to health care.

“Our health policy fellowship looks at health at the macro level—often addressing the health of nations,” says Welsh. “Our community health fellowship often focuses on meeting the healthcare needs of more defined populations, particularly those whose healthcare is provided by community health centers.”

Global View

John Parks (M’10), MD, recently completed the Robert L. Phillips, Jr. Health Policy Fellowship, directed by Kenneth Lin, MD , associate professor of family medicine at GUMC. Through this fellowship, which emphasizes public policy and health legislation, Parks sought to strengthen the capacity of family medicine training for primary health care systems around the world.

He first was exposed to the need when he worked at a hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2008, working as a research assistant to support the country’s first family medicine residency.

“I became interested in finding out where family medicine exists and where it doesn’t,” Parks says. “The last time that anyone systematically looked at where post-graduate family medicine training was happening was about 20 years ago.”

So Parks undertook a project to update that work. Along with medical students and research assistants from Georgetown and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, they went through the 194 member countries of the World Health Organization to research where family medicine programs exist.

After validating the information, the final step will be to put the project in a peer-reviewed publication and create an online interactive map of the results.

Community Impact

Having just completed the Community Health Leadership Development Fellowship, Hanna Yoon, MD, is approaching health care through an entirely different—more community focused—lens.

Directed by Kim Bullock, MD , associate professor of family medicine at GUMC, the Community Health Leadership Development Fellowship is designed to train future physician leaders to become medical directors of community health centers.

Yoon has spent the last year providing community-oriented primary care to medically underserved citizens at Unity Health Care ’s Anacostia location. As one of her fellowship projects, Yoon revamped the patient nutrition program, and developed an eight-week curriculum consisting of weekly, two-hour classes focusing on nutrition education and fitness activities.

“Most of the patients that have become involved in the fitness program are African American females who have children at home,” Yoon says. “Many of them struggle with obesity, diabetes or hypertension.”

Before leaving, Yoon says she passed along the curriculum and program information to the next provider in the hopes the program will continue and help future patients adopt a healthier lifestyle.

Looking Beyond the Patient

Both Parks and Yoon say their fellowship experiences reflect the Jesuit concept of cura personalis, or care of the whole person, that is Georgetown’s credo.

At the health policy level, caring for the whole person entails considering policies that impact patients’ level of access, namely whether they have access to health insurance or if a transportation system enables them to receive necessary clinical care, says Parks.

And, at the community level, Yoon says “it’s not just looking at a patient as their disease or sickness, especially when you work with underserved populations.”

“You have to look at their entire situation and ask questions about where they’re living, what type of family support they have, address their social history and work with social and case workers.”

Moving Forward

Both Yoon and Parks are headed to Africa to hone their new skills.

Yoon is travelling to Mbarara University of Science and Technology in Mbarara, Uganda for a one-year commitment through Global Health Service Partnership (GHSP). GHSP aims to build local health care capacity in countries that face shortages of healthcare providers through improved training and education.

Parks has accepted a junior faculty member position at Baylor College of Medicine that will enable him to work with Texas Children’s Global Health Corps in Lilongwe, Malawi.

“Dr. Parks and Dr. Yoon are perfect examples of the kinds of physician leaders the family medicine fellowship program attracts—active and skilled clinicians who want to broaden their skills and experiences to make a difference in the health of large populations, particularly for the underserved and those most in need,” says Welsh.

By Sarah Reik
GUMC Communications