Research Feature

Students see medicine in action through house calls program

Students see medicine in action through house calls program

The House Calls Program at University Hospitals (UH) Case Medical Center delivers care to homebound patients while providing a valuable learning experience for future doctors from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. And, since 2008, first-year medical students have been working with the House Calls team through the School of Medicine's Rotating Apprenticeship in Medical Practice program, which exposes students to various clinical settings.

"It allows them to interact with patients within the first four months of their medical school experience, which helps reinforce why most of them are interested in medicine in the first place," says Peter DeGolia, MD, associate professor of family medicine at the medical school and director of the Center for Geriatric Medicine at UH Case Medical Center. "They have opportunities to see how broad the field of medicine is."

The House Calls Program provides primary health care services to homebound adults who cannot otherwise access medical care. Prior to each visit, students prepare for the encounter by taking a five-question pretest and viewing an informational slideshow.

At the homes, students interact with both patients and caregivers. They check patients' vital signs and in some instances, give immunizations. Throughout the visit, they observe and are exposed to numerous medical problems.

Providing care at home makes practicing medicine less clinical, according to Tary Yu, now in his third year at the School of Medicine. "Once you go into someone's home, they're not just your patient anymore—it's much more personal," Yu says.

"I think they begin to see the connection between disease and disability," says DeGolia, adding that some students continue to participate in the House Calls Program beyond the curricular requirements. "They get a personal observation on how a home environment affects a person's quality of life. It really brings home the importance of care-giving."