The Inland Empire has a shortage of primary care physicians, but UCR’s Primary Care Summit aims to help change that. The event returned to campus on January 14, 2023 for the first time since 2020. Hosted by the UCR School of Medicine’s Family and Preventative Medicine Interest Group (FPMIG), the event brought together students from UC Riverside, California University of Science and Medicine (CUSM), and Western University to explore future careers as primary care physicians.
The summit, which grew to over 130 attendees this year from 83 in 2020, included nine workshops consisting of talks from local physician leaders on topics such as cultural competence in medicine, nutrition education, LGBTQ+ health, and policy and advocacy. It also gave students the chance to experience hands-on procedures, including IUD/Nexplanon insertions, pediatric wellness checks, echocardiograms, EKGs, and running codes.
“We hoped that this event provided students with an improved understanding of the essential role that primary care plays in one's health, and will motivate students to work towards helping mitigate the current primary care physician deficit present within the Inland Southern California area,” said Cloie Chiong, co-president of FPMIG at UCR and one of the event organizers.
“We felt that calling attention to primary care for students, especially in the early stages of our medical education, was vital to fostering an understanding and appreciation for the field,” added Ricardo Ruiz Flores, the other co-president of FPMIG. “It was also very exciting to invite students from other universities in the area to involve even more future physicians in the region.”
Drew Richard, a medical student from CUSM and president of the CUSM Family Medicine Interest Group, said he attended the summit because he loves seeing the support for future practitioners at primary care conferences. “I particularly enjoyed the Advocacy in Medicine lecture and the Ultrasound and ECHO workshop,” he said. “I’m a lot more comfortable with ultrasound techniques for the heart (which I did not expect to learn that day), and from the Advocacy in Medicine lecture I was reminded that big changes start from small ideas.”
The keynote address, delivered by Emma Simmons, MD, the senior associate dean of student affairs and the Salma Haider Endowed Chair for the Thomas Haider Program, reflected the summit’s goal of emphasizing the importance of primary care and helping more medical students pursue the specialty. “We need more primary care doctors in Inland SoCal,” said Simmons. “It is a great calling to be a PCP. You get to provide undifferentiated care to people of all ages, on a long term basis, and make a difference in your community.”
The event appeared to meet its objective of supporting and promoting interest in primary care. “The absolute high of the summit for me was seeing how much the students genuinely enjoyed the workshops and talking about their collectively shared passion toward primary care,” said Chiong.
For Ruiz Flores, learning from practicing family physicians and collaborating with peers from other universities helped revitalize his passion for medicine. “When we face depressing statistics about what’s wrong with the current healthcare system or how physicians are struggling in our region, it’s those same physicians, as well as our incredible peers and fellow future physicians, who almost magically flip those statistics into limitless potential for the future in this unique time and place we find ourselves in as medical students,” he said. “Primary Care Summit reminds us there’s a lot to be excited about in the future of the field; it brings back the magic in picking up a textbook.”
Chiong and Ruiz Flores hope to expand the event in coming years, potentially adding birthing simulations as well as talks comparing different primary care specialties, to continue to prepare students for careers as primary care physicians.
“I am truly excited that we were able to bring the Primary Care Summit back to life this year,” said Chiong. “I cannot wait to see how much the summit will grow in the future.”