As part of its Population Health pillar, the CTSI is supporting a resident in the Preventive Medicine program. The program, which is within the Department of Public Health Sciences, places an emphasis on epidemiology and population health, and allows its residents to learn from numerous departments both inside and outside the Medical Center.
Elizabeth Helm, M.D., M.P.H., recently completed her Preventive Medicine residency, and spoke with CTSI Stories about her experiences:
Can you give a brief overview of the residency?
Part of the 2-year program is a Masters in Public Health, which definitely gave me a better appreciation of the health care system, epidemiology in general, and the changes from the Affordable Care Act.
Then, there are two required rotations. One is at the County Department of Health, which was a 3-4 month rotation, and that was incredibly useful. We learned about the resources available to the public in terms of immunization, tuberculosis, STD screening, treatment, and so on. It’s important as a physician to know what types of things are available to people, especially those without insurance, but I didn’t really know about all of those services from any previous curriculums.
The second required rotation is quality improvement, which lasted about 3 months. From that, I got a much better understanding of how quality improvement works within individual practices and a hospital system, as well as the governing bodies that require these quality improvements. We did a rotation on quality improvement with Dr. Panzer, and that was eye opening to me because I didn’t realize that a lot of this stuff is mandated by CMS and Medicaid services.
Aside from those two, the rest of the rotations are flexible?
Yes, and that ties into one of the most important things I want to share about this residency: The administration is incredibly supportive. Whatever you want to get out of this, they will help. For example, my co-resident really wanted to do occupational health and really ended up focusing on that and getting a lot more training in that area. For me, that didn’t end up being as much of an interest, but I got to focus more on global health, and I did my thesis on global health issues.
So what other rotations did you end up selecting?
I did do one in occupational health, where we learned how people’s exposure at work can relate to their health, and how you can use the workplace as an opportunity to provide health care teachings and health screenings and things like that.
I also did a rotation in passport health, which is where people go before they go abroad. When I came to URMC, I knew from the beginning that I wanted to live and work abroad, so that rotation helped me because that’s what I plan to do.
And then I did a rotation at the American Cancer Society, which helped me understand nonprofits, how they function, and some of the extreme work that goes into it.
When you started, you already had a residency in family medicine. Why did you decide on a residency in preventive medicine as well?
When I finished my family medicine residency, I did kind of struggle with whether I should do this because I was already boarded in one thing. But, at that point, I was really burnt out clinically — I wasn’t loving the day-to-day work, because it seemed really constrained by the system. So I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to get more of a big-picture look, and that maybe a better understanding of the system would help me appreciate the day to day more.
It really helped me renew my faith in the health care system, because I saw how big and complicated it is. Instead of being frustrated at how quickly I had to see patients, or how limited I was in addressing their issues, I saw that there’s a lot going on behind the scenes, and change is slow because the system is so big, so you can’t just get frustrated.
Who would you recommend this program to?
For medical students, I would say that if you know you’re interested in a broad picture — in treating a population rather than an individual — this might be a good fit for you, especially if you’re finding the day-to-day clinical work frustrating. And for people who have done a clinical residency, like I did, then I’d recommend it for those who want to have a good understanding of clinical research and epidemiology and public health interventions.