Primary Care Progress started in 2010, when a handful of primary care students and trainees across the country connected over the same concern: the marginalized status of primary care at medical and other health professional training schools around the country and the fact that the next generation was relatively “sidelined” in efforts to remedy this problem. PCP set out to fix both problems at the same time by mobilizing grassroots engagement campaigns in academic primary care communities, and having students in the driver’s seat of those efforts. Through these early campaigns at Harvard and the University of California, San Francisco, the founders quickly saw the sweet spot that was represented by these student-led spaces of primary care community engagement. Not only were they inspirational and reinvigorating for all participants – providing a hopeful vision of the future of primary care - but they deployed unharnessed power – student power – in a unique way to accelerate reforms in education and care delivery.
This model of student-led campaigns to advance primary care spread rapidly, quickly generating significant participation from other health professions as well, such as nursing, social work, and pharmacy. Students’ motivations to form or join chapters at new institutions had as much to do with their desire to learn with and from the other health professions as they did with their desire to be leading change efforts at institutions. These change efforts initially included a new primary care curriculum, new centers and institutes for primary care, and new approaches to primary care delivery for individuals and communities. Over time, they have also included the launch of new student-run clinics and other collaborations with the community to improve care and advance health and well-being.
Support for chapters initially came from a national team of experts whose backgrounds in community organizing and advocacy made them particularly effective at coaching chapter leaders in their local change efforts. Over time, this support has transformed into a unique and robust leadership development curriculum that uses a vast network of peer-coaches to help participants develop a set of leadership practices that are critical for their advocacy work, as well as their efforts to build effective interprofessional teams in clinics.
The chapter network is 50 chapters strong and growing, with dozens of peer coaches and trainers spread around the country to provide training, coaching, and support to a growing cadre of over 200 current chapter leaders. Through a highly interconnected online network, a cohort-based learning model and intensive, longitudinal relationships, PCP spreads innovations rapidly and promotes powerful personal growth among participants.
PCP is committed to developing a new interprofessional generation of leaders in primary care, and is already seeing dozens of those students and residents from the founders’ cadre returning to act as the trainers, coaches, mentors, and guides to those passionate students who have followed in their footsteps.