Adventures in Health Care

Aug 6, 2013

Credit University of Virginia School of Medicine

In these last weeks of summer, faculties are gearing up for the onslaught of college students, but at the University of Virginia there’s great excitement about another group – community residents with an interest in medicine. 

Each year, UVA organizes a free seven-week program that gives the average person a behind-the-scenes look at what really goes on in medical school.

Before starting Hotcakes, a busy restaurant in Charlottesville, Keith Rosenfeld gave serious consideration to medical study.

“I did consider becoming a physician, but I started my first company while I was an undergrad at UVA here, and never quite got back to it.”

Then, he got a second chance of sorts, signing up for what turned out to be a fascinating series of classes with some inspiring academic doctors.

“Almost every doc is there because he wants to be, as opposed to money or any other type of interest, so they’re really good guys, and in fact  the guy who gave the AIDS lecture, he was one of those who was there in the very beginning and working on a national basis.”

The program is called Mini-Med School.  It’s run by Sean Reed, a physician who welcomes the chance to make medicine more meaningful to the public.

“We realize we’re competing with television at night, so we keep it fun and light.  We introduce them to simulation technology, we use virtual video to explain complex concepts -- and models, so those who haven’t been in the classroom for a while are just amazed at the sophistication of the way we’re teaching.”

Students learn how to take blood pressure, do a head and neck exam, conduct an ultrasound, and Reed says they get to see – first hand – where medical breakthroughs come from.

“We actually have an entire evening devoted to basic science labs, so we have Nobel prize winners in labs that have been doing incredible research, and so we break into small groups, and our students get to go out and meet the principal investigators that are running those labs -- to see that intersection between the bench research and how it informs our healthcare in the United States I think is really one of the more interesting evenings.”

In addition to prospective patients, the program attracts healthcare professionals hoping to keep up with a fast-moving field.  Patrice Farley’s been a registered nurse for 32 years, but she learned a lot about new treatments for AIDS and the promise of personalized medicine thru genetics.

“I think everyone should have some type of genetic counseling.  There are now many markers for diabetes, for cancer, it’s for everything.”

The program explores how medicine may change under the Affordable Care Act – becoming more collaborative, depending not on one doctor or one nurse but an entire team, and Keith Rosenfeld says it prepares you for medical visits and the decisions you might have to make.

“Physicians have to be very well trained in how to think  as opposed to just the information that they’re thinking about, and so being exposed to the diagnostic process and how you go through  decision trees and think about things was to me the most fascinating part of the course.”

The program’s grown in popularity over the years but can only accommodate 120 students, so UVA says it will hold a lottery on August 25th, choosing from a list of people who  sign up online. 

Find out more about Mini-Med School here.