Winter 2005

Promoting Leadership in Caring for the Underserved

In 2002, those responsible for pediatric residencies at UCSF came together to take a hard look at the pediatric primary care residency program. What had once been innovative was now standard for all pediatric residents. In addition, the practice of medicine had changed dramatically since the program began. After a thorough review, they created the Pediatric Leadership for the Underserved, or PLUS, program.

The mission of the PLUS program is to train and inspire future leaders in pediatrics to identify and address the varied issues that affect the health of the underserved. The program concentrates on three core skill areas: leadership, critical thinking and community engagement. "We feel that while we have been trained well to work as individual physicians, many physicians are placed in leadership roles without appropriate skills," says PLUS program coordinator Anda Kuo, M.D. "In addition, while physicians are being trained to think about patients in a social context, we feel inept to address the disparities we see."

To build these skills, residents in the PLUS program are exposed to leadership skills, such as those necessary to work with the media or to work with legislators. They work with mentors who have experience in effective pediatric health programs. They then put these skills to use in community partnerships. Along the way, the residents also are trained to meet the highest standards in clinical pediatric care. "PLUS is a completely different way to teach physicians, but at the end of the day, they still have to come out with excellent clinical skills," says Kuo.

In the PLUS program, now in its second year, residents have worked with San Francisco city and community leaders, as well as local youths, to create an adolescent health program in the city's underserved Bayview-Hunters Point community. Rather than just open a clinic, the residents worked closely with stakeholders to find out what was needed.

"We learned that the teens didn't want just a clinic; they wanted an all-encompassing program that would address health in a broad way," Kuo says. The final result was the creation of the Bayview Healing Arts Center. Residents worked to help get a building donated, get grants and rally residents and officials behind the project. The program does not only work close to home. Residents have also set up two international programs, one in Zambia and one in the Dominican Republic. "We train residents to understand the social context that is affecting health, ask what the community needs, then give residents the skills to go out and address those needs," Kuo says. "There is a growing interest in our program at other institutions because we are unique in focusing on underserved populations, as well as leadership early in physician training."

For more information, contact Dr. Kuo at (628) 206-3090.

Related Information

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