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Five Students Examine Family Practice Medicine During Week-Long Internship at St. Elizabeth's

By Nick Berry '09
Posted March 30, 2008
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Five Hamilton students got a glimpse inside the world of family practice medicine during the second week of spring break (March 17 – March 21). Nicholas Berry '09, Mikel Etchegaray '09, Matthew Sharbaugh '08, Nedzada Smajic '10, and Benjamin Van Arnam '09 participated in the Health Experience Learning Program (HELP) at St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Utica. During this five-day internship, the Hamilton students shadowed first, second, and third year residents of St. Elizabeth's Family Practice Residency Program as the young physicians treated patients and went about their clinical activities. 

The Hamilton students observed a different resident each day, allowing them to experience firsthand a variety of medical fields, such as family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology and surgery. In addition, the Hamilton students were also able to sit in on the residents' daily morning reports and weekly grand rounds. 

According to Leslie North, Hamilton's Coordinator for Health Professions Advising, HELP, in conjunction with the St. Elizabeth Family Practice Residency Program, offers Hamilton students "an outstanding opportunity to learn about both the medical profession and about themselves. Working with residents, the undergraduates test their ability to communicate with people from different backgrounds and cultures, explore their tolerance for stress, their problem solving skills, and their understanding of community health issues." North also said the intense week-long internship is "designed to help students decide if medicine is an appropriate career choice for them. The partnership with St. Elizabeth offers Hamilton students a rare look at both medical education and the personal skills required by a clinical practitioner." 

Benjamin Van Arnam '09 found HELP to be "an exceptional opportunity for students not only to witness the medical profession first-hand, but to peer into the life of a medical resident." Because residents are put under significant pressure and stress, Van Arnam, as an aspiring physician, believes they offer pre-medical students "an honest perspective of the challenges of medicine." Overall, he says he has found HELP to be "an eye-opening but wonderful experience that has only reaffirmed [his] interest in medicine." 

The St. Elizabeth Family Practice Residency Program was established in 1975 as an attempt to remedy the growing shortage of family physicians in the Mohawk Valley and to improve the community's access to medical care. The residency program has been a resounding success in achieving its primary mission because approximately half of its graduates have decided to settle in the area and practice here. Today, the residency program is the only graduate medical education program in the greater Utica area and is part of St. Elizabeth Medical Center's mission to provide excellence in care and in education. The program's residents get experience treating both urban and rural populations and work in hospitals and various outpatient clinics. 

This is the 3rd year of Hamilton's collaboration with the St. Elizabeth Family Practice Residency Program. Currently, there are two five-day internships available to Hamilton students: one during Winter Break and another during Spring Break. North says she is working with St. Elizabeth Medical Center to begin a third internship over the summer. HELP participants are selected by the Hamilton Health Professions Advisory Committee based on seniority, interest in family practice medicine, ability to benefit from the internship, and seriousness of purpose. 

-- by Nick Berry '09

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