In response to the rapid change of pace in the healthcare field, the Family Medicine Residency Program at MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center started offering a health policy focus in 2008. The health policy track’s curriculum is designed to train residents in the principles of healthcare policy, advocacy and leadership to become knowledgeable and skilled advocates for patients, families and communities, both at the local and national level. The program is headed by Jeffrey Luther, M.D., at MemorialCare Medical Group – Long Beach who previously served as the Program Director for the Family Medicine Residency Program. The Family Medicine Residency Program is celebrating its 50th anniversary of training family physicians to provide excellent care.
“In order to keep people safe and healthy, we need to advocate for them outside the walls of the doctor’s office, whether that’s locally or in Sacramento or D.C.,” says Dr. Luther. “We want to give residents background in health policy and show them that it’s not intimidating or potentially boring. When you focus on health policy as advocacy, I think it takes on a lot more energy.”
Residents who choose this specialty receive additional training and experience in health policy research, analysis and advocacy. They work with experienced faculty members to develop a deeper understanding of the policy-making process and its impact on healthcare delivery.
One of the first residents to specialize in the health policy curriculum created a survey – still used today — to determine the degree of food insecurity each patient experiences. She later quantified survey results in comparison to data for the community at large.
The results of the survey lead to the creation of the center’s food bank, which offers food to patients who screen for food insecurity when they come in for a regular checkup and is still operational today. She also met with representatives from the mayor’s office and city council, where she discovered and connected with resources in the community focused on addressing food insecurity.
The health policy track includes didactic sessions, seminars and workshops on various topics related to health policy. The residents learn about the history and evolution of healthcare policy, the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders, and the impact of policy decisions on health outcomes. The program emphasizes the importance of community engagement and social justice and encourages residents to become advocates for health equity and access to care.
“The health policy track within Family Medicine Residency Program is an excellent opportunity for residents to gain expertise in healthcare policy and advocacy,” says Dr. Luther. “It prepares residents to make a positive impact on the health of individuals, families and communities.”