Med Students Learn From Our Physicians

August 04, 2016

Penn Highlands Healthcare has joined with Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, or LECOM, to become a clinical site for core rotations for third-year medical students.

Six students have started their rotations on May 30 at all four Penn Highlands Healthcare hospitals - Penn Highlands Clearfield, Penn Highlands Brookville, Penn Highlands DuBois and Penn Highlands Elk.
Students are working alongside physicians in obstetrics-gynecology, general surgery, internal medicine, pediatrics and psychiatry. In addition, many will complete rotations in family medicine, sports medicine, emergency medicine and various others.

During their time on rotation, usually four weeks, medical school students are always supervised by an attending physician, according to Dr. Lisa Witherite-Rieg, director of Medical Education at Penn Highlands Healthcare and PH Brookville family physician. She oversees the program along with Kathy Scott, MLS, who serves as the coordinator of students along with her role as librarian and CME coordinator at PH DuBois. 
Students are allowed to interview patients and perform a physical exam with the physician. They will also be trained in procedures under a physician. This could mean a student can help with changing a dressing or suturing an incision, along with other procedures.

“They are not just here to watch,” Witherite-Rieg said. “One must remember, they already have four years of college and two years of medical school completed. This isn’t just someone who is walking through the door. These are some of the brightest student physicians I have encountered.” 

LECOM is the largest medical school in the country with campuses in Erie, Greensburg and Bradenton, Florida. The majority of LECOM graduates become family physicians, internal medicine, pediatrics or ob-gyn physicians, and U.S. News & World Report ranks LECOM in the top five medical colleges for graduating primary care physicians. 

In addition to LECOM, Penn Highlands Healthcare has affiliation agreements with Penn State Hershey College of Medicine and The Commonwealth Medical College. Students from these schools will be on our Penn Highlands campuses completing various rotations, too.

For more than 30 years, medical students have been educated throughout the Penn Highlands system. In the past, the rotation was arranged directly through a doctor by the student or by the medical school, Witherite-Rieg said.  She was one of those students. “It’s a good feeling to be home,” she said remembering what it was like. 

Over the years, the requests for rotations have increased with many local students wanting to come back home and to be mentored by someone they’ve admired.

Because of Penn Highlands’ size and the availability and willingness to have students, medical schools approached the system to take more students. The hospitals hope that through this program, some of these students will see what Penn Highlands Healthcare has to offer and consider returning to the area to practice medicine once their training is completed.

“So many young people go into medicine as nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and physicians. We are responsible as a healthcare institution to help foster that interest,” Witherite-Rieg said.

“Students have been welcomed to almost every specialty,” Scott said. “It’s beneficial to us,” Witherite-Rieg said. “When the doctors, nurses, technicians and everybody gets involved in teaching, we get involved in learning. One physician said it best, ‘When I teach, I learn.’ It’s stimulating to teach. It makes us better...My family depends on this institution for healthcare. I depend upon it for healthcare. We always need to find ways to strengthen, to improve and to grow. Being stagnant is never a good thing – especially in medicine.”