What to Expect at an Academic Medical Center

May the Medical Student Come In?

Residency program - teamwork

When you are a patient at an academic medical center, such as Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, you are likely to encounter a greater number of health care providers than you normally would at a private practice physician’s office. You might be surprised when your primary physician informs you that a “head” or “charge” physician will also be in to see you. Then, you will likely be even more surprised when that physician enters and not only introduces himself or herself, but also introduces you to his or her “team.”

So who are these additional “head” physicians and who makes up their teams?

The Medical Center is one of 157 programs in the U.S. (131 confer the degree of medical doctor (M.D.) and twenty-six additional programs confer the degree of doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.) that educates and trains medical students to become physicians. Many of these programs, including the Medical Center, also train resident physicians.

Residents are physicians who have completed college and four years of medical school, but who are still training in the field of their choice. For example, in order to become a “board-certified” dermatologist, one must complete medical school and an additional four years of training (three of which are all in dermatology) as a resident.

Here at Penn State Health Dermatology, many of the doctors that care for our patients are resident physicians, and the “head” physician that comes in at the end of an appointment, is the attending physician, a board-certified dermatologist who is on the faculty of our department.

In addition to resident and attending physicians, many other physicians (especially residents training in different specialties) and medical students also spend time working with us and learning in our clinic. These individuals comprise the teams of doctors that you may meet during your visit and can be identified by the personal nametags and/or by the length of their white lab coats (medical students, wear short lab coats that look like a white blazer that only goes to their waists).

Hopefully, this background information is helpful to you in understanding the care and service you receive during your visit to our office and Medical Center. We appreciate and enjoy the challenging and exciting day-to-day opportunities provided by being part of a leading education and research medical center. We are also grateful for the environment Penn State Hershey Dermatology provides in helping to achieve our goals of offering both world-class training and world-class care. Most importantly, we are grateful to the patients who allow us, medical students and residents, to participate in their health care.