A Message From Dr. Richard Friend, Dean of the College of Community Health Sciences

June 29, 2020

These doctors-in-training will work and learn alongside our faculty physicians who practice at University Medical Center, which CCHS operates. The residents will also train at DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa.

Our College has provided the third and fourth years of medical school for a portion of students from the University of Alabama School of Medicine since 1974. The College’s Tuscaloosa Family Medicine Residency Program, a three-year program, is one of the oldest and largest family medicine residencies in the U.S.

These new classes are beginning at a time that has been profoundly changed by the Covid-19 pandemic. While this is not completely unique (much of my own training as a physician came in the 1980s during the AIDS epidemic), these medical students and resident physicians, just like medicine and patient care, will be changed by Covid-19.

They will witness an increasing use of telemedicine to provide patients with both physical and mental health care. They will learn to navigate caring for patients with a highly contagious virus, and as of yet no vaccine, with potential shortages of personal protective equipment. They will learn to conduct patient triage during a pandemic.

In essence, they will learn a new repertoire of skills, and to think and practice in new ways.

In that process, I believe they will come to realize that their compassion and empathy will be as important to their patients as their knowledge and technical skills. They will tend to and watch patients in the hospital who, because of isolation policies, can’t have their families and loved ones with them. They will participate in the care of patients across the spectrum of age, race and socioeconomic status and will witness how those without resources and access to medical care are more likely to suffer from heart disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions – and more likely to be hard hit by diseases like Covid-19.

They will be better for these experiences. We will become better teachers and mentors. And patients will ultimately benefit from more compassionate care.

College of Community Health Sciences operates University Medical Center