“They were an advocate for me”: A Qualitative Study Exploring Medical Student Longitudinal Relationships and Patient Well-Being

Erin Risotto-Urbanowicz, Taylor Vega, Rachel Caron, Reem Hasan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background<!-- Query ID="Q2" Text=" As per instruction, affiliation entries without a department or institution name should be treated as private addresses, with only the city and country captured. Hence, “Mail Code: L475, 3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Rd..” was treated as a private address. Kindly check." -->: Patient navigators, community health workers, and care management teams improve patient experience and health outcomes. Medical student involvement in these roles is limited. Evaluation of these programs focuses on the student experience with less attention to patient participants. Objectives: We sought (1) to understand the experience of being a participant in a medical education program; (2) to explore the patient-medical student relationship; and (3) to describe the impact of this relationship on patient health and well-being. Design: This was a qualitative study that utilized in-depth semi-structured interviews. Participants: Participants were selected based on enrollment in a preceptorship program at an urban academic medical center between 2017 and 2020. Participants worked with a medical student during an 18-month period in which the medical student was embedded in a primary care medical home, serving as a health systems navigator for 1–2 medically and socially complex patients. Approach: Nine participants completed 1-h compensated phone interviews. This study was deemed IRB exempt. Key Results: Three themes and eight subthemes were identified, including Navigators Were Key to Accessing the System, Interpersonal Partnerships Improved Health, and Fulfillment in Teaching of Lived Experience. Navigators eased the burden of chronic illness by being a point of contact in the health system, which improved participants’ overall experience. Participants also described the relationship as therapeutic, citing improvement and stability in both mental and physical health. Lastly, participants found meaning in chronic illness by teaching their students empathy. Conclusions: Longitudinal patient-medical student relationships may provide stability and health benefits. These partnerships have the possibility of adding value to patients’ healthcare experiences. This study complements current literature highlighting the value of these relationships for pre-clinical medical students. As such, additional opportunities for and additional research regarding the value of longitudinal patient connection should be incorporated in undergraduate medical education.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)648-652
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2023


  • longitudinal care
  • medical education
  • patient perspectives

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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