An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure--or so says Harvard Medical School.
The Medical School opened a new Department of Ambulatory Care and Prevention this fall, the first academic department of its kind in the nation.
The new department, which began teaching students and serving patients on October 6, is the product of more than two years of investigations into out-patient, or ambulatory, care and illness prevention.
The department is being run by both the Medical School and the Harvard Community Health Plan, a health maintenance organization.
The department aims to focus attention on issues outside the range of traditional medical concerns, said Medical School Professor Thomas S. Inui, who chairs the new department.
The department was formed "in recognition of the shift in patient care from in-patient hospital care to an out-patient setting," said Alan G. Raymond, vice-president of Public Affairs at Community Health.
Although the department has just opened, the program has already caused a stir in the medical world, according to Inui.
"I can't tell you how many hours I've spent talking to academic institutions, HMOs and research corporations [who are] riveted to the logic of the institution [and who are] intensely curious" about the department's work, Inui said.
The cooperation between the Medical School and the Community Health Plan is an important aspect of the program because it will enroll the department's patients in a preventative care insurance program, Inui said.
The department currently offers two courses for medical school students. Second year students can take a course on prevention and third and fourth year students can a practicum, or an internship, in ambulatory care.
Inui said that one of the benefits of opening the department at Harvard was that the work will receive wide-reaching attention.
"One of the important reasons why doing things that are new and are departures from the ordinary are good to do at Harvard is because you have everyone's attention," Inui said.