Indu Michael remembers the one-page medical field survey she filled out around this time last year. A pre-med student at the University of California at Los Angeles, she provided the correct job descriptions for surgeons, pediatricians, OB/GYNs, psychiatrists, and internal medicine physicians. Only one medical specialty stumped her.
“I had no idea what a hospitalist did,” says Michael, 21, a senior.
The anonymous survey was part of the application and interview process for the Undergraduate Preceptorship in Internal Medicine (UPIM), a program that was launched last summer at UCLA Medical Center. By the time Michael finished the three-week program in early September, she had a complete understanding of what hospitalists do. She also says she’s leaning toward an internal medicine (IM) career—and might become a hospitalist.
“I’m seriously thinking [Hem-Onc] may not be the direction I want to take,” Michael says. “I realized oncologists are mainly consultative doctors and it’s really the general medicine team that does the medicine.”
Those kind of comments are music to Nasim Afsar-manesh’s ear. Dr. Afsar-manesh, a hospitalist and assistant clinical professor at UCLA, developed the UPIM program from scratch as a way to expose pre-med undergrads to internal medicine. The ultimate goal, of course, is steering them toward an internist career. She is well aware of medical students’ declining interest in IM, and she believes outreach to undergrads and first-year medical students will help reverse the trend.
“Undergraduates are like sponges,” Dr. Afsar-manesh says. “They are so genuinely excited about the possibilities of getting to do this stuff. … You can appeal to their idealism.” She created the program because “the general field of medicine has become so complex that students who are thinking about making it a career don’t have a good chance to see what the day-to-day practicing of medicine is like.”