Public Service Medical Scholars program

In the winter of 2000, the Stanford School of Medicine launched PriSMS, the Public Service Medical Scholars program. PriSMS set out to nurture physician leaders in public service who will help re-shape the way medicine, research, and service are theorized, practiced and delivered.

PriSMS was first conceived in 1997 by medical students Steven Chen, Kristine McCoy, and Noemi Steiner. They believed that the Medical School 's curriculum, despite the school's commitment to nurturing humanism in physicians, inadequately addressed issues of public service and medicine. They wanted to find ways to deepen students' commitment to public service, increase their intellectual and emotional flexibility, and develop skills for cultural competency and community-centered research.

The students' concerns about medical education were echoed by others nationally. A 1998 report by the Pew Health Professions Commission recommends that public service become more integral to a physician's education. Among the report's "Twenty-one Competencies for Successful Practice in the Twenty-First Century," are, "practice relationship-centered care," "provide culturally sensitive care," and "partner with communities in health care decisions."

Chen, McCoy, Steiner, and other medical students, in cooperation with a core group of medical faculty and university staff, initiated PriSMS in order to address the competencies and recommendations put forth by the Pew Commission in relation to the specific needs of Stanford medical students. A lifelong commitment to public service, an understanding of the dynamics of diverse communities, an appreciation for community-centered research and cultural competency, and increased intellectual and emotional flexibility are the qualities of a physician-leader that PriSMS worked to develop.

PriSMS was designed as a structured supplement to the Stanford MD program, offering two elective program components:

  1. Community Partnership Medical Scholars (CPMS): As the research component of PriSMS, CPMS was developed to provide qualified students the opportunity to pursue scholarly research related to medical science, health service delivery, and community health in partnership with community-based organizations. The program continues to fund student research through the Scholarly Concentration in Community Health and Public Service.

  2. Public Service Fellowship: This intensive, three-quarter service-learning seminar was designed to provide students with an in-depth opportunity to study community health issues, cultural competency, and leadership development. The fellowship required students to carry out and assess community-based health intervention projects. The fellowship has evolved into the core seminar for the Scholarly Concentration in Community Health and Public Service (INDE 260).

Timothy K. Stanton, Ph.D., was appointed as part-time director of PriSMS in September 2000. Dr. Stanton served as the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford from 1991-99, and is an internationally recognized expert on service-learning. Ann Banchoff, MPH, MSW, served as part-time associate director. She has a background in public health, social work, and international human rights. Tommy Lee Woon, MA, served as instructor of PriSMS cultural competency seminars and training sessions during the years, 2000-2002. Since 2001, Michaela Kiernan, Ph.D. has served as Research Director for the program. Dr. Kiernan, a Senior Research Scientist with the Stanford Prevention Research Center , has a doctorate in social and health psychology and expertise in research methodology and statistics.

During the 2002-3 academic year the School of Medicine issued an RFP for Scholarly Concentrations as part of a reformed medical education curriculum. The Concentrations, loosely based on PriSMS, were to contain core and elective academic requirements and options of completing a 'scholarly paper' or 'original research." Beginning with the 2003-4 academic year all students must elect a Concentration. Stanton, Banchoff, Kiernan, and a group of faculty and students proposed an expanded, reformulated PriSMS program as a Concentration in Community Health and Public Service. The proposal was accepted and the new program began in September, 2003.

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