MS Fellowship Experience for Medical Students

Thursday, June 2, 2016
Exhibit Hall
Debra I Frankel, MS OTR , Advocacy, Services and Research Department, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, NY, NY

Background: The professional clinical workforce in neurological care is declining. People with MS experience – or in coming years likely will experience – problems with access to MS care, such as long wait times for an appointment with an MS clinician, shorter office visits and, in some communities, no neurologists available at all.  The National MS Society is engaged in several strategies to attract new talent to the field-- the objective of these activities is to increase the number of MS clinicians who are knowledgeable and skilled in providing MS care. 

Objectives: Studies indicate that early exposure to MS care and the opportunity to work closely with a mentor are key elements in attracting new talent to the field. The medical student fellowship experience is designed to expose medical students, in their early years of medical education to MS, i.e., comprehensive, inter-disciplinary patient care and MS management, MS research and patient support programs. The overarching goal is to increase the number of neurologists who are knowledgeable and skilled in providing MS care and for those who do not ultimately select neurology or physiatry as their specialty, to increase their awareness of the complexities of MS management, as they are likely to encounter patients with MS, regardless of their future practice.

Methods: Medical students, after their first year of medical school, engage in a 4-week program whose specific structure and content are tailored to student interests and available clinical resources. Students work closely with a designated mentor and are exposed, at a minimum, to: neurological care, rehabilitation, neuro-imaging, mental health care and MS Society support programs. They shadow professionals in comprehensive centers for MS care as well as in community-based practices. Depending on the resources available at their site, they may also be exposed to: urology, long-term care, pediatric MS, clinical trials, other MS research, and other training activities (e.g. grand rounds, injection training, etc.) Students prepare a project (e.g. literature review) and/or prepare an essay describing the impact of their experience at the conclusion of the fellowship. 

Results: 41 students have participated in the program to date. Over a third have selected neurology or physiatry as their specialty. 40% are still in school and have not made a specialty selection. The remaining have selected other specialty areas. All report a valuable experience that will positively impact their careers in the future.

Conclusions: This type of early exposure to MS care by medical students appears to be successful in attracting new clinicians to the field. As there is a lag time between program participation and ultimate selection of a residency, follow-up with these students over the long term is necessary. All participants reported a valuable experience and appreciated the opportunity to observe clinical care and MS research, and  to develop a relationship with the MS Society.