First-year medical students from the Keck School of Medicine of USC Primary Care Program partnered with the Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center’s Wellness Center recently to hold the first annual Diabetes Day.

Twenty-four participating medical students taught diabetic nutrition to Wellness Center patients by leading nutrition sessions in both English and Spanish. These sessions, held Jan. 19, included topics such as reading food labels, understanding portion sizes and healthy living with diabetes. The event then culminated in a cooking class led by a bilingual nutritionist.

“I appreciated the opportunity to contribute to the patients’ understanding of how to manage their diabetes, while also being invigorated by my interactions with them,” said first-year medical student Andrea Banuelos Mota. “Participating in this event filled me with motivation to keep working hard towards one day being their physician.”

Community members participated in the first annual Diabetes Day at the Wellness Center, which included teaching about nutrition in both English and Spanish. (Photo/Claire Norman)

The program trains primary-care focused medical students in community health settings. Students are selected from an application process at matriculation based on their commitment to primary care careers. Once accepted, they learn about continuity of care, the patient-centered medical home and how to best build relationships with patients and primary care faculty throughout medical school. The additional mentoring, leadership, research, education and service opportunities support each student’s primary care interests, which include the fields of family medicine, general internal medicine, general pediatrics, geriatrics and women’s health.

The first-year Primary Care Program students spend a semester learning basic diabetic nutrition through didactic instruction and working with the Wellness Center nutritionist, as part of many community-based, service-learning opportunities that support their primary care medical education.

Additionally, second-year Primary Care Program students learn team-based care through the Interprofessional Geriatrics Curriculum. IPGC provides an interdisciplinary geriatric experience for USC health professional students. Dentistry, occupational, therapy, pharmacy, physical therapy, physician assistant, medicine and social work students perform health assessments and education, while visiting the homes of older adults. Learning these skills by caring for community-dwelling elderly in the Menorah House and Hope Through Housing programs teach team-based care, an essential part of primary care.

“The Primary Care Program gives medical students interested in a primary care career a rich and unique opportunity to experience hands-on primary care,” said Jo Marie Reilly, MD, professor of clinical family medicine (educational scholar). “They spend time with community clinic mentors, are involved in teaching experiences with marginalized communities and practice working in interprofessional teams during their IPGC home visits. This program enriches and nurtures students’ interests in the diverse opportunities a primary care career offers, while building a vibrant primary care student community.”

With a growing national need for primary care physicians, the Primary Care Program delivers a comprehensive mentoring and training experience for students exploring the many opportunities in a primary care career.

— Claire Norman