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Penn pairs chronically ill patients with medical students to create better doctors

Can someone who suffers from a lethal genetic disease teach a pair of medical students to become better doctors? That's the goal of a unique, long-term patient-student pairing program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

Doctors-in-training -- like Christopher Guerry, a second-year medical student at Penn -- are learning what it's like to live with cystic fibrosis (CF), and many other chronic health conditions. They're shadowing patients with chronic conditions such as HIV, asthma and kidney failure. The students are taking part in the "Longitudinal Experience to Appreciate Patient Perspectives (LEAPP)" -- a program at Penn's medical school - in which students are paired with chronically ill patients for several years.

"The goal of the program is to better understand what the patient must go through and to improve doctoring skills by learning from those experiences," explains Paul Lanken, MD, Professor of Medicine in the Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Division at Penn and Director of the LEAPP program. "We want to produce better doctors doctors who have a real compassion for what the patient is going through, including their daily struggles with a serious chronic condition."

Medical Student Paired With Patient Deb Becker Deb Becker has battled Cystic Fibrosis (CF) - a disease characterized by thick mucus in the lungs that affects breathing and digestion -- more than half of her life. The 50-year-old grandmother first noticed the symptoms of CF at 16 and was diagnosed with it at age 25. Becker eventually lost her oldest sister, who also suffered from the disease. And throughout Becker's life, as a single parent, she has been in and out of the hospital often. But she persevered, "You put one foot in front of the other and do what you need to do."

On oxygen round the clock, Becker, a Shiloh, New Jersey resident, has limited mobility. Cystic fibrosis affects my lungs," she says. "The weather and allergies make it
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Contact: Susanne Hartman
susanne.hartman@uphs.upenn.edu
215-349-5964
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
3-Mar-2006


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