By Eliza Brody ’21
Funding Source: Jaharis Primary Care Fellowship
This summer, I am interning with Dr. John Russel, the Chair and Residency Director of Family Medicine at Abington-Jefferson Health System through the Jaharis Primary Care Fellowship. I applied for this fellowship because I hope to study medicine, and over the past year, I have become most passionate about patient advocacy. My father spent the better part of 7 months in a hospital before he passed away. Listening to his experience, along with what I learned through the Health Studies courses I have taken at Haverford, where I learned about health disparities and inequities, have opened my eyes to many issues that must be addressed to improve the medical field. I believe this internship will allow me to examine these shortcomings firsthand and learn what doctors and nurses are doing to rectify the poor showings for patient advocacy.
I was expecting to work in the office, but in light of the pandemic, I will instead be conducting my internship virtually. This change does limit the extent to which I can truly understand the experience of working in a family medicine office because I will not be interacting with the doctors and patients in person. In fact, working remotely has already presented some challenges. I have had many issues with my login and password to get onto the servers remotely, which I need to access patient records. Additionally, I have to call patients from an email, so I am not using my personal phone. Despite these early obstacles, I am very grateful that Dr. Russel has found a way to accommodate me remotely as I know many of my peers, especially in the science and medicine fields, had their internships canceled. I am excited to see how the rest of my internship goes and what I will learn this summer.
One of my tasks in this internship is to assist with patient outreach required by insurance companies. I will be looking through patient records to see if they have completed necessary checks such as colorectal exams, mammograms, etc. Then, I will call the patients that need to schedule these visits. I am excited to interact with patients and help however I can.
Although I am disappointed with working remotely, I think it presents a unique opportunity to see how the medical field has to adjust to limit in-person contact, especially in primary care. Many doctor’s offices are using online methods of seeing patients, but this presents several issues, and many doctors are not happy with this method. The manager of Dr. Russell’s office explained that it is harder to assess patients, and fewer patients can also be seen in a day. These difficulties produce a financial struggle for health systems because the offices/practices are generally paid according to the number of patients, so if fewer patients are seen per day, they cannot generate as much money. In addition, fewer patients are going in to see doctors for routine visits and postponing procedures, further amplifying the financial strain on the health systems. Despite my initial disappointment with having to conduct my internship remotely, I have already begun to adjust to being as proactive as is possible in the current situation. Because it is unclear how long circumstances will require virtual office visits, this internship may in fact provide me with a unique and valuable skillset for my future career in medicine.