Practice of Clinical Medicine
Thanks to our alumni and community physicians, first- and second-year students in the medical school have the chance to interact with patients as early as their first month on campus-putting newly gained knowledge to use in a hands-on environment.
The school’s Practice of Clinical Medicine (PCM) program pairs each student with a preceptor in the community for two afternoons a month. Of the more than 200 preceptors who participate in the PCM course, nearly half are M.D. or housestaff alums of the medical school. Read below to learn more about this program.
Welcome to the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine
Dear First-Year Medical Student,
Welcome to the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine!
Throughout your first 18 months of medical school, you will participate in the Practice of Clinical Medicine (PCM) course. The PCM course teaches basic clinical skills such as professionalism, medical interviewing, physical diagnosis, and clinical reasoning. The course is designed to correlate with your basic science course work and consists of hands-on small group learning, simulated patient workshops, and a community preceptorship.
Small group learning
Your small group will consist of approximately 10 students who meet on campus every other week on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday afternoon. Each small group is led by a physician and a fourth-year medical student. During the MS1 and MS2A semesters, you will also participate in simulated patient workshops approximately every other
During the MS2B semester, you will meet off campus with your preceptor every other week on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday afternoon. Your preceptor will be a physician who teaches medical students in the practice setting, providing opportunities to reinforce and practice clinical skills.
The PCM staff looks forward to working with you! We hope you will find the course to be an exciting introduction to the practice of medicine.
Be prepared to drive to your preceptor’s office every other week. Preceptorship sites are located within a 50-mile radius of the MCV campus; there are very few practices that are served by public transportation. Therefore, you are expected to make provisions for your own transportation. (See PCM Travel Policy)
Managing your schedule
Preceptor schedules are announced two weeks prior to the first preceptor session. Be prepared to arrange any necessary childcare, car-sharing, or other scheduled commitments around your preceptor schedule.
Please contact Dr. Susan DiGiovanni by phone (804-827-1743) or e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have a:
- particular interest in rural medicine
- preference to be placed in or near one of the following areas: Louisa, Fredericksburg, Williamsburg, Newport News, Tappahannock, Kilmarnock, Southeast of Petersburg, Powhatan
- disability that is documented through VCU Disability Support Services that requires accommodation for your placement.
Students are randomly assigned to preceptorships, except for those students officially enrolled in the International/Inner City/Rural Preceptorship program (ICRP) and/or those who request that the above circumstances be taken into account.
The PCM small group introduces core clinical skills. The basic components of the history and physical exam are taught in lecture. In small group, the leader allows the student to practice these new skills in a safe environment with immediate feedback. The student in the following week will be able to practice these skills on a standardized patient which facilitates practice in interviewing and physical examination skills.
Small groups consists of ten students, a faculty leader, and a fourth-year medical student co-leader. Working together over the year, group members develop the teamwork skills that are essential in practicing medicine. Fourth year students bring the perspective of their clerkship experience to the group and serve as role models and coaches. Many develop a lasting enthusiasm for teaching; some of the current PCM physician faculty were once fourth-year student co-leaders. The group leaders share the broad repertoire of clinical skills used in their clinical work. The students are introduced to differential diagnosis and clinical reasoning. The small group leader will give students feedback on encounter notes that they will write after standardized patient encounters.
PCM uses a multifaceted evaluation process to assess progress in professional attitudes and demeanor, interviewing and physical diagnosis skills, and clinical reasoning. Evaluation methods include:
- Observation of clinical skills with actual and simulated patients
- Small group leader and preceptor evaluations
- Evaluation of written and oral case reports
- Quizzes and written exams
Students are encouraged to develop self-assessment skills and to participate actively in the learning process.
Serving in a one-on-one community-based preceptorship offers students an opportunity to observe and practice professionalism, medical interviewing, and physical examination. The office experience is correlated with the small group curriculum. MS-2B students participate in preceptorships in the Fall semester of the second year.
Each student is assigned to a practicing physician, based either in the community or in the academic medical center. Over 200 preceptors serve as office-based teachers and role models. The geographic and cultural diversity of the city of Richmond and its surrounding localities enables PCM to offer preceptorship experiences in urban, suburban and rural practices serving diverse patient populations.
The School of Medicine requires students to make their own provisions for travel to assigned clinical sites. Students are expected to have access to a vehicle during the four years of their medical school education.
See the PCM Travel Policy information below.
Preceptor placements are done randomly by computer. With the excption of the I2CRP students and students who have a special request to travel to more distant locations, students may not request special placements.
Exceptions to travel policy
Automatic exceptions to the travel policy will be made only for needs documented through the Office of Disability Support Services.
VCU School of Medicine Practice of Clinical Medicine contacts
Practice of Clinical Medicine
VCU School of Medicine
Physical address: 1201 E. Marshall Street, Suite 5-306
Mailing address: Box 980311
Richmond, Virginia 23298-0311
Phone: (804) 828-6791
Fax: (804) 828-6792
Faculty and Staff
Practice of Clinical Medicine faculty and staff contacts
Susan DiGiovanni, M.D.
Kimberly A. Pedram, M.D.
Associate Course Dir
Alice Wong, M.D.
Associate Course Dir
Elizabeth P. Marlowe, Ph.D.
Judy Gary, M.Ed.
Family Medicine Prec