Medical students currently interface more and more with community-based physicians, many of whom have little training or experience as educators. They also start their ambulatory experiences from the beginning of their medical school training, not just at the clerkship year. This has prompted substantial literature on the need for improved faculty development for community preceptors, which is widely believed to be inadequate at present. The authors describe a novel program, designed to augment community preceptor teaching skills and practice behaviors, focusing on topics relating to humanism, communication, and psychosocial issues common in primary care. The program was conducted for four years beginning in 1999 and organized around acknowledged attributes of successful adult learning, and used case-based, small-group sessions, where individual community preceptors were each asked to "teach" a series of standardized students, in front of the group, regarding issues raised by a number of hypothetical patient cases. The standardized students had in turn been trained by the authors to interact with the participating faculty in a defined manner. The small-group sessions were led by community "opinion leaders" who had been chosen for this role by the participants, and who themselves first underwent training by the authors to familiarize them with core concepts felt to be essential to the program. At the conclusion of the entire process, surveys of the opinion leaders, the other community preceptor participants, and the standardized students suggested that the program did stimulate significant changes in attitude and behavior, although further research is needed to confirm this.
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