How the College's Foundation is improving medicine
By Sara Walker, MACP
As an educator, I am always excited to catch up with former students and see how they are contributing to the profession. At a recent meeting in St. Louis, I was delighted to see Michael Rau, FACP, a former student from the University of Missouri-Columbia. A general internist, he started in solo practice and founded a multispecialty group that now includes 29 physicians.
Mike and his wife, Andrea, believe in the power of foundations to make the changes that can improve our professional lives. As evidence of that belief, Mike recently presented two gifts to the ACP- ASIM Foundation: one from his practice group and another from his family.
Many internists are surprised to learn that the College has a foundation that allows us to create and support programs in education, research, service and professionalism. Several years ago, James L. Borland Jr., MACP, a former College Regent, suggested that we establish a foundation to fund educational and scientific programs that the College was not already supporting.
There are many distinctions between the Foundation, which was incorporated in 1999, and the College. The Foundation, for example, has a board of trustees that is separate from the College's governance structure.
The ACP-ASIM Foundation has funded 14 projects to promote goals to help educate medical students and patients and boost professionalism
In addition, the ACP-ASIM Foundation can work with corporations and the public in ways that the College can't. While the College focuses primarily on internists—a role that is appropriate for a professional organization—the Foundation is committed to educating the public and improving public health.
What has the Foundation accomplished? To date, it has funded 14 projects that promote its core values: health promotion, collaborative partnerships, professionalism, good stewardship of health resources and concern for social justice.
A number of outstanding projects have focused on educating medical students and internists, as well as helping to promote professionalism. Here is a look at Foundation initiatives that are helping internists today:
Educational products. In 1999, the ACP-ASIM Foundation financially supported the Medical Knowledge Self Assessment Program (MKSAP) for Students. This program, which resulted from a partnership between ACP-ASIM and the Clerkship Directors in Internal Medicine, produced a 269-page book that tests medical students' knowledge.
The book contains a set of 400 case-based questions with answers, explanations and literature references. It is already used as an educational tool in third-year medicine clerkships, and more than 7,000 copies have been distributed..
In 2000, the Foundation funded two other projects to help medical students. One helps improve how evidence-based health care is taught, while the other trains medical students to care for the chronically ill.
Students and practicing physicians alike can enjoy Multiple Small Feedings of the Mind, a Web-based educational product produced by the ACP-ASIM Virginia Chapter with support from the Foundation. This tool allows users to learn more about 10 common internal medicine problems, all while earning CME credits from the comfort of their computer. For more information, go to www.acponline.org/chapters/va/msfm/.
Professionalism. To promote professionalism in medicine, the Foundation participated in the Medical Professionalism Project with the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation and the European Federation of Internal Medicine. This effort culminated with the publication of "Medical Professionalism in the New Millennium: A Physician Charter," which appeared in Annals of Internal Medicine and The Lancet in February.
The charter affirmed key principles such as the primacy of patient welfare, patient autonomy and social justice. We can use the charter in many settings as we teach, not only to explain ACP-ASIM's core principles but also to reaffirm our own commitment to medicine.
Projects for 2002 and beyond
In the coming years, the ACP-ASIM Foundation will work to improve communication and patient education efforts.
Improving communication. Most doctors agree that a great deal of frustration, time and expense could be eliminated if communication were improved throughout the health care system. The Foundation's Health Communications Initiative, which is being planned as a 10-year project, will address problems of poor interpersonal communication and garbled messages-or no messages at all-going to and from our patients and their insurers.
To get started, the ACP-ASIM Foundation will work with the Institute of Medicine to sponsor a national conference on health care communication, to be held Oct. 22, 2002. Conference participants will seek ways to change communication to improve health care.
Patient education. Other Foundation initiatives will focus on helping educate patients. Many of us already use the summaries that appear in Annals of Internal Medicine to help patients understand the journal's scientific articles. The funding to produce these summaries came in part from an ACP-ASIM Foundation grant awarded in 2000.
The Foundation will conduct another patient education initiative, the Health Information Referral Project, with the National Library of Medicine (NLM). This project will refer patients to credible, useful Internet information about common chronic diseases through the NLM's authoritative, user-friendly, commercial-free Web site, MEDLINEplus (www.medlineplus.gov).
Pilot projects testing the new service will be conducted in Iowa and Georgia this spring. All members will have access to the product in early 2003.
How you can help
The ACP-ASIM Foundation is a powerful resource for College members and our patients. To quote Mike and Andrea Rau, ACP-ASIM is a "quality piece" and a key source for unbiased medical information that helps internists like Mike shape his practice. That's why Mike and Andrea were so happy to help the College's Foundation meet its goals of improving the profession and educating members and their patients.
I'd like to encourage all College members to get involved. Many members use their dues statement as a handy way to make a voluntary annual contribution to the ACP-ASIM Foundation. This helps the Foundation continue its important work.
If you are interested in contributing further to the Foundation's success, contact Jean A. Krause, chief executive officer of the ACP-ASIM Foundation, at 877-208-4189. For more information, visit the Foundation's Web site at http://foundation.acponline.org.
Want to tell a colleague or friend about the good work the ACP-ASIM Foundation is doing? Try posting this article on the bulletin board at your practice, training program or hospital lounge. Printable versions of this article are online at www.acponline.org/journals/news/apr02/president.pdf.
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