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Warren General, AHN & LECOM

A benefit is in its medical students

Photo submitted to Times Observer Medical students (left) Tim Kennedy and Bhavana Kadiyala from the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) are working their way through clinical rotations at Warren General Hospital this year.

When Warren General Hospital announced in 2017 that it would be affiliating with Allegheny Health Network and LECOM, there was much ceremony.

It was not an acquisition. The groups would all work together while retaining their autonomy.

The benefit of working with Allegheny Health Network was pretty straight-forward — regional doctors would work in Warren to help keep services local.

And, there was “an infusion of capital,” according to CEO Rick Allen at the time the affiliation was announced.

The partnership with LECOM?

“Warren General Hospital will become a clinical site for LECOM students, medical students, third- and fourth-year, residents coming out of a LECOM program,” Allen said in 2017.

That’s good for LECOM. The Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine is the largest such college in the United States. Its students need opportunities to work in hospital settings.

But how does it benefit Warren General?

The benefit comes from students like Tim Kennedy and Bhavana Kadiyala.

There are currently 12 LECOM students every day at Warren General.

“We’ve got some of the brightest young medical minds coming to us through LECOM,” WGH Director of Business Development and Marketing George Lilja said.

Kennedy and Kadiyala are third-year medical students. Their first two years were spent in the classroom.

They will spend two years at Warren General. The one-year core rotation includes family medicine, internal medicine, psychiatric medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, and surgery. Their second year will include emergency and ambulatory medicine.

Because LECOM has nationwide reach, there is a list of hospitals its students can pick from for those rotations.

In this case, they didn’t pick Warren General. The collaboration was too new for WGH to even be on the list of available hospitals. But, both are happy with their circumstances.

“Almost everyone that’s here was assigned to it because we didn’t know it was a site,” Kadiyala said.

“I ended up switching to come here,” Kennedy said.

The students are here to learn, not to take the place of a doctor.

They are trained personnel who can interact with the patients, answer basic questions and make note of questions the patients have that must be fielded by the doctors, evaluate their needs and present ideas to the doctors who have the final say in patient care.

Kennedy, who is in the midst of a rotation with Dr. Michael French in pediatrics, said. “I don’t decide what happens. We brainstorm and come up with different ideas. Whatever he says goes.”

While the students are practicing, they are helping.

“I think a lot of patients like having multiple people come in and check on them or check on their baby,” Kennedy said. “It makes them feel a little bit more comfortable.”

“A lot of patients like that,” Kadiyala said. “They have time to sit with us and talk to us, which they like.”

She is working with Dr. Dale McNett in the cancer center during her internal medicine rotation.

After her rounds, she will tell McNett how things are going with her patients. “I look up their vitals, how they did overnight, any changes in their medications, any issues they had, I look at their labwork, their papers, then I go see them myself,” Kadiyala said. “I do a physical exam on them. I take all my notes, go back to the doctor.”

The students are limited in what they are allowed to do — they aren’t writing prescriptions or giving medical advice. “We are very limited on what we can tell them,” she said. But, if the doctor agrees with her analysis and plan, she can tell the patient. “We always have to get approval.”

Some things are off-limits. If a patient asks Kadiyala for the results of an MRI, “even if I know, I’m not legally able to tell them,” she said.

Students learn from the doctors they work with, whether that is observing how the doctor works with patients or talking with the doctor about a patient or a symptom. And the doctors have help. Help that comes at the right price for the hospital — “we’re paying for it,” Kennedy said.

“Having us here helps the doctors do their jobs,” he said. “It helps us learn things. It’s a really great symbiotic relationship.”

“You’ve never had students here before,” Kadiyala said. “Everyone is so open and welcoming. Everyone’s so willing to teach. I’m really thankful to how receptive everyone has been. That makes me want to learn.”

She said some classmates at larger hospitals aren’t getting the hands-on experiences students at Warren General are getting.

“In large hospitals, there are a lot of students,” Kennedy said. “Having one student with one doctor is incredible. They have time to sit and talk with you. In a crowd of 20, you’re just a number.”

“It’s a different environment to practice medicine,” Kadiyala said. “I have more time to spend with my patients.”

The lack of medical residents — medical school graduates who spend three to five years or more training specifically for their chosen fields — is another plus for the students, and another reason having clinical students is good for the hospital. “It’s nice that there’s no in-between tier,” Kadiyala said. “If there’s a resident, you spend more time with the resident than with the attending (physician).”

The relatively low number of patients is good for students and good for care.

“Because it is a smaller setting, at least in acute care, you end up seeing the same patients over and over again,” Kadiyala said. “You build a relationship with them. The doctors love it. The patients love it. It’s nice to have that rapport with everyone.”

“It’s a great hospital,” Kennedy said.

That there are extra hands and eyes working at the hospital is not the only benefit Warren General expects to see out of the partnership with LECOM. There is always the possibility that some of those “brightest young minds” will return.

“For us the community and us the hospital, if they come into our area and fall in love with it, they tend to stay,” Lilja said. “Statistically, if they come into our area, a high percent, 40 percent, tend to stay.”

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