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Rural Remote Health. 2013 Jan-Mar;13(1):1946. Epub 2013 Mar 12.

Primary health care and general practice attachment: establishing an undergraduate teaching network in rural Greek health centers.

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  • 1Laboratory of Hygiene and Social Medicine, Medical School, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece.



Exposure of undergraduate medical students to general practice and community healthcare services is common practice in the international medical curricula. Nevertheless, proponents of the hospital and biotechnology based paradigm, which is still dominant within the medical academic environment, question both the scope and the setting of this training procedure. Regarding the latter, the quality of teaching is often questioned in settings such as rural primary health centers, where health professionals have neither incentives nor accredited training skills. Therefore, the success of community based medical education depends substantially on the procedures implemented to involve non-academic staff as clinical teachers.


This report describes the steps taken by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH) Medical School to establish and maintain a Rural Primary Health Care (PHC) Teaching Network in order to implement community oriented PHC and GP undergraduate medical education. A multi-professional teachers' network of healthcare staff, working in Rural Primary Health Centers, has been chosen, in order to expose students to the holistic approach of PHC. The enrollment of teachers to the Teaching Network was solely on a voluntary basis. The novelty of this procedure is that each professional is approached personally, instead through the Health Center (HC) that usually offers this service as a package in similar activities. In an attempt to attract health professionals committed to medical education, a self-selection procedure was adopted. Collaboration with the medical school was established but it was characterized by the School's inability to compensate teachers. A series of 'Training the Trainers' seminars were completed during the first implementation period in order to enhance the awareness of health professionals regarding undergraduate teaching in PHC; to present the educational needs of medical students; to expose them to the principles of medical teaching; and to strengthen their communication skills.


Setting up sustainable community oriented medical education activities in a more or less unfriendly environment is a difficult task that calls for wisely selected functional steps. Pilot educational activities determine the quality of the implemented programs by evaluating difficulties and constraints. Recruiting teachers on a voluntary basis proved to be critical in enhancing the quality of this educational activity, and overcoming distance constraints. The educational activities which were offered created a homogenous group of PHC teachers with explicit educational aims and objectives.

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