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The Catalyst

Institute prepares future SC primary care providers

By Cindy Abole
Public Relations

South Carolinians living in rural communities can expect to see improvements in their access to medical care thanks to a program that prepares future primary care providers.

The effort attracted Sudeep Sunthankar, a first-year student in the College of Medicine, to become a fellow in S.C. Area Health Education Consortium’s Institute for Primary Care Education and Practice program. Sunthankar, who is interested in pediatric primary care, joined the program to learn about primary care medicine under the 2010 Affordable Care Act. He enjoyed the discussions offered through the spring seminar series that ended April 8.

Interdisciplinary primary care students gather at an April 8 lecture at the SC AHEC office in Charleston. The program was linked to USC participants in Columbia via video conference.  For information, visit
Interdisciplinary primary care students gather at an April 8 lecture at the SC AHEC office in Charleston. The program was linked to USC participants in Columbia via video conference.  For information, visit

The final seminar featured a presentation on the future of primary care medicine and health care reform by Bill Hueston, M.D., a professor in the Department of Family Medicine.

The program is offered to advanced practice nursing students, physician assistants and medical students who share an interest in primary care medicine and work collaboratively within interprofessional teams. It was established through a three-year funded grant from The Duke Endowment for students who want to receive guidance, education, support, mentorship and access to other related experiences to enhance their training. The program accepted 47 students as program fellows from the University of South Carolina and MUSC.

It is coordinated by S.C. AHEC members and faculty from MUSC and USC. David R. Garr, M.D., S.C. AHEC executive director and associate dean for MUSC Community Medicine, serves as the director of the institute.

“This partnership between USC and MUSC has been enjoyable. The faculty leaders on both campuses have been enthusiastic about this program, and our video-conferencing system used to link our campuses has been very successful,” said Garr.

College of Nursing’s Terri Fowler, DNP, R.N., is an instructor teaching family and primary care in the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program. As a faculty mentor and preceptor with the program, Fowler also leads discussions with participating master’s and doctoral-level nurse practitioner students.

“The students love the interaction and discussion offered through this program. They also enjoy meeting fellow students from other disciplines who share their interest in primary care and will be among those who make up the interprofessional health care teams. As nursing professionals, they realize the importance of understanding new policies and their effects on practice and the delivery of care. They want to stay involved,” said Fowler.

In an effort to facilitate communication, participants are encouraged to share information with other institute fellows using a password-protected Facebook page. This page will be used to help faculty stay in touch with students and for students to communicate with each other throughout the year.

According to Kristin Cochran, director of recruitment and student programs, a new cohort of students will be recruited in the fall. Other practicing primary care clinicians from across the state will assist as mentors and preceptors for students during their community-based clinical rotations.

A preceptor retreat is scheduled for June 1, and an annual conference for both students and preceptors is set for spring 2014.

April 18, 2013

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