April 7, 2011
By Nikita Srinivasan
When my classmates and I formed the Georgetown Chapter of Primary Care Progress in late September 2010, one thing became very clear to us: almost no one at our college knew what primary care was. We would mention our club to classmates and discover that some (particularly those from outside the United States) hadn’t even heard of primary care; others had no idea what the job of a primary care physician entailed. Many who did know couldn’t imagine why anyone would go into primary care given its financial disincentives. So the goal of our first panel (titled “The Changing Face of Primary Care”) was obvious: education.
The panel was our club’s first introduction to the school and, more importantly, a great way to introduce people to an important topic, so we really wanted it to be a success. We decided to set the date for February 22nd – right at the start of second semester. By early February, we had managed to book a room for the event and to invite and confirm three very passionate and busy panelists (two doctors and a medical student). All that was left was publicity.
We started off with the obvious publicity efforts: we put flyers up in dorms and buildings across campus. We sent emails through Georgetown’s list serve to the school of Nursing and Health Studies and the Family Medicine interest group at the medical school. We all knew from experience, however, that these efforts wouldn’t be enough to get a large number of people to come, especially if they didn’t know much about the topic. So, we went a little further. A week before the event, we sent out personalized emails to members of other heath-related groups we were part of and encouraged them to send personalized messages to others who might be interested —creating a networking web. A couple of days before the event, we also sent out personalized texts to friends who were interested in medicine. And it worked! Although we were a bit nervous in the hours, and minutes, before the event, by the time our panel started at 6:00 pm, the room was almost full. By 6:05, there were no more empty seats. By 6:15, we had people sitting on the floor.
The audience was not only large, it was also very enthusiastic. As we opened up the floor to questions, there was 30 seconds of awkward silence before a sympathetic friend of ours reluctantly asked a question. But after that, questions from undergraduates and graduate students alike began to pour in, causing us to run past our allotted hour. Even after the panel was over, many students came up to speak with the panelists about medical school, their interests in primary care, and other opportunities they might pursue. Some student who had come into the panel with casual curiosity left with an avid desire to learn more about primary care and to get involved with our club. Since the panel, we have had many more people attend our general body meetings, grand rounds, and journal club. Though we didn’t give anybody a test, I’m pretty sure more of our classmates now know what primary care is!
Nikita Srinivasan grew up outside of Boston, Massachusetts and is a rising junior at Georgetown University, majoring in International Health. She is founding president of the Georgetown Chapter of Primary Care Progress.