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Introduction to Family Medicine    22/07/2010

 

In many parts of the world, this case scenario is repeated daily, however in over 51 countries there has been developed a specialist called the family doctor 1 who can help patients with a different approach to medical care. The family doctor is a “physician who is a specialist trained to provide health care services for all individuals regardless of age, sex or type of health problem; provides primary and continuing care for entire families within their communities; address physical, psychological and social problems; coordinates comprehensive health care services with other specialists as needed.” 2
The family doctor has a very unique set of attributes that differentiate him from other specialist physicians.  It is these attributes that lay the foundation for the function of the family doctor in his role as a primary health care physician in any health care delivery model.
First the family doctor is a generalist.  He must be able to address all of the health problems that present to him from the entire population he serves.  He must be able to render care to all patients no matter their age, sex, social class, religion or their health problem. The family doctor must be able to provide continuous and comprehensive medical care.  The patient and her physician must be able to develop a long-standing and personal relationship. This relationship must allow the patient to obtain his care in a longitudinal fashion over time and not limit this interaction to just a brief illness.
The specialty of Family Medicine goes far beyond simply providing curative care it offers its patients a more comprehensive approach to medical care. The family physician also provides his patients with a full breadth of knowledge that includes health promotion, disease prevention, psychological support, and social support. This physician also assists his patients in coordinating their care. He can be the first contact physician, but when necessary he can make the appropriate referral to a needed specialist. He can then advise his patient about the advice given by the specialist.
The family physician is by definition family-oriented. He knows the individuals through their context in their families.  Since he takes care of these patients over time, he also learns about their relationships within the community, their work and their friendships. Finally, the family physician is always concerned about his community. The patients’ health and medical problems is looked at through the contest of the community and how he lives there.  The family doctor needs to be aware of the health needs of the people living in the community.  He should strive to improve the health of the community working with all health agencies and community groups.

So the family doctor then is a physician who is an effective clinician. This doctor enjoys and supports his relationship with his patients over time.  The family physician is based in the community and works collaboratively with the resources of the local community and the greater medical community to render health care to the defined population.

From 1995 until 2000, the Ministry of Health, Vietnam underwent a very careful analysis of its primary care education and delivery system. It decided to base it health care system on a specialty trained primary care doctor and chose Family Medicine as the specialty for this new kind of general doctor.
In 2001, the Ministry of Health, Vietnam created the new specialty of Family Medicine. In doing so it authorized the establishment of First Degree Specialty training programs for this new field.  The development of Family Medicine in Vietnam began with the implementation of the Vietnam Family Medicine Project. This was a six year collaborative project with the Maine Medical Center, Portland, Maine, USA and newly created academic Family Medicine Centers within each of three academic stakeholders, the Hanoi Medical University, the Ho Chi Minh University of Medicine and Pharmacology (HCMCUMP) and the Thai Nguyen Medical College. 14
The UMP set a goal to be the first school of medicine to receive permission from the MOH to train First Degree Specialists in Family Medicine. The process was difficult and several steps were needed to achieve this goal. These included 1) Setting a University agenda for the new specialty training development , 2) Maneuvering the agenda through the political process of the University, 3) Creating a new infrastructure within the university, 5) Developing a new curriculum acceptable to the University and the MOH, 6) Recruiting trainees through the national postgraduate entrance examination process, and 7) Training program implementation.  
The leadership of the Family Medicine Center of the UMP was successful in its organization and development of the new training program. It worked diligently on designing the outcomes of the First Degree Specialty training in Family Medicine. These included:
1-Care and strengthen both comprehensively, and continuously the health for individuals, members of families, not differentiated by age and gender.
2- Manage effectively the common health problems across the human life cycle and the family life cycle.
3- Provide health education counseling for individuals and families, to promote motivation towards health improvement.
4- Provide preventive health screen for the detection of the diseases in the early stage.
5- Coordinate western modern medicine and Traditional Medicine in managing health problems.
6- Develop sound relationships with patients, members of their families and the community.
7- Encourage other resources from within a Family and community to care for and promote the health for all.
8- Be a self-learner, recognizing personal educational needs, selecting appropriate learning resources, and evaluating one’s progress.
The training program was then designed to achieve these outcomes and was successfully implemented in June of 2002. The curriculum developed at the UMP, was then adopted as the national Family Medicine curriculum.  The other two academic partners in the Vietnam Family Medicine Development Project implemented their training programs later in that same year. Since 2002, the HCMC Family Medicine Center has graduated 45 physicians as Family Medicine First Degree Specialists. In addition, there have been nine faculty trained in Family Medicine faculty development in the US for short courses, and there have been two trained at the University of the Philippines, Manila in the Masters in Family Medicine. The Family Medicine Center has a strong core of trainers both within the Center and in the many specialty areas where the CK-1 students train.
Study material has been difficult to access for faculty and trainees. There has been a need for a reference for learners consistent with the curriculum in Vietnam. Translations of textbooks from the US have been completed, but they of course have not been entirely relevant to the Vietnamese medial situation. Here for the first time in Vietnam is a textbook, written by the medical educators who have been teaching this new specialty. They have gained the knowledge over the past eight years about this new discipline; they have acquired the skills to teach it and the attitudes inherent in the use of the biopsychosocial model of Family Medicine. This textbook, which has been lacking up until this time in Family Medicine education is now present and will have a major impact on the future generation of specialty trained family doctors in Vietnam.
Alain J. Montegut, MD, FAAFP
Associate Professor
Director of WONCA North Americain region
Director, Global Health Primary Care Initiative
Department of Family Medicine
Boston University
August 1, 2008


 

 

 

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