A Publication of WTVP

Healthcare and medical education are at a crossroads.

Increasing healthcare costs, increases to the cost of medical education, a physician workforce shortage, and healthcare reform create significant challenges, yet unique opportunities for academic institutions like the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria (UICOMP). It’s essential during these times that we help to foster future-thinking educators — innovative and transformational physician leaders who are compassionate, caring role models to teach our learners and advance the health of our community.

At UICOMP, we are in a unique situation to not only develop faculty to be leaders in the community now, but also to foster future leadership in healthcare. The Peoria-area community has access to a high level of healthcare that would make communities many times our size envious. We are very fortunate.

The College of Medicine is an integral component, but not alone. The relationships that have formed among the hospitals, medical groups, educational and service entities, businesses, and the College of Medicine have built something bigger, something stronger than any of us could possibly do on our own. The presence of the medical school is a key recruitment tool to attracting talented medical professionals and faculty to this community. More than half of the primary care providers at both Methodist Medical Center and OSF Saint Francis Medical Center have trained in a UICOMP-sponsored program, whether as a medical student or resident physician. And 40 percent of our graduating students stay in Illinois to practice medicine.

The College of Medicine believes in engaging our faculty and students, supporting them through change and enabling them to be successful leaders. We have many fine examples of this process. To name just a couple…

The Caterpillar Faculty Scholars Fellowship program, supported with an endowment from Caterpillar Inc., has helped train faculty leaders through an innovative 16-month program. For a decade, this program has helped faculty impact patient care through service, research and education. Thanks to the fellowship, an “exergaming” program established at the RiverPlex by Dr. Amy Christison is helping children with childhood obesity, a growing epidemic and key healthcare need.

A new series of hands-on curriculum developed here, and being adopted nationally, uses trained “patient” actors and one-on-one interaction so that students can improve how they administer patient exams, provide discharge information and deliver “bad” news to their patients. Providing an innovative learning environment is key to supporting tomorrow’s leaders.

Faculty are making discoveries in the lab that are being published and shared among researchers and scholars worldwide in many areas, including cancer. The goal is to improve patient care, and hopefully, a cure will be found one day, possibly thanks in part to work that is taking place right here in Peoria. UICOMP students have created GUIDES (Guide, Understand, Inform, Drive, Educate and Serve), a program in which they meet with local middle school and high school students to provide various activities and encourage youth to consider a career in medicine.

So are these things making a difference? Absolutely.

Every day, faculty members and learners touch the lives of innumerable patients, resident physicians, students and other healthcare personnel. As they help shape future physicians, the positive downstream effect can truly help ensure we keep high quality healthcare in this community, and help fulfill the UICOMP mission to “lead collaboration to improve health.” iBi

Dr. Meenakshy Aiyer is associate dean for academic affairs at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria and a member of the 2000 class of 40 Leaders Under Forty.