The challenge of maintaining interest in Primary Health Care in medical students

doctors 2019 ifmsa

(Piron Guillaume, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Guilherme Pitol, a 21 years old medical student now in the third year in Catholic University of Pelotas, Brazil. He is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


Primary health care (PHC) is the gateway to the patient to find help in their illness – or even health. In this way, basic health issues are discussed and disseminated in this first pillar of health. However, because they are “simple”, such questions do not arouse interest in young medical students, who are fascinated by the specialties already arriving at college with preconceptions about the PHC. We should not blame them, here in Brazil, our society generally thinks in a diminutive way regarding the general practitioner, our gateway to PHC. While the doctors of large hospitals are gods, they scuttle our health posts, a reality that is also on the political side. From this, we observe the result in the medical student – who does not want and has no interest in participating in primary care.

I think that because it is a social issue, in large part, promoting PHC looking at the same subject matter could leverage, as a result, the interest of young students. That is, to improve the scenario of scrapping, to train exemplary doctors who excel in public life, who appear in medical movements and who, above all, “exalt” confidence and seriousness to medical students could reconstitute the figure of the general practitioner as a physician of respect, as well as the specialized doctor – that in the current conjuncture, only the last one is seen with respect and power.

If we talk about medical education, this reality is already being put into practice. The guidelines of the Ministry of Education in Brazil promote to the student the contact with the primary attention from the beginning of the college, until the end of it. Most of the last two years of medicine, traditionally composed of internships in all medical areas, have about 30% of all time in basic care alone, with each other having a maximum of about 8.3% of the time in those two years.

Important to lead the student, too, is the personal gain in primary care. In medical practice, he will come across issues that are not only medical but that relate to people’s health. In this, sociocultural, environmental, political, and many other issues resonate and make the study of primary care not as “basic” as previously thought.

Matters, such as multidisciplinary teamwork, are heavily worked on at PHC and the integration of the doctor with the community is phenomenal; this leads to the young person’s sense of belonging, of work done – feelings that the young doctor often does not experience.

Such points are essential for promoting basic care for young students. To have someone to mirror, to be a model for the new generation of students and curricula of the colleges that stimulate the student to experience and understand how necessary primary attention is could be what it is lacking in order to reach primary attention a level deserving of desire by the students.

About the author

Guilherme Pitol is a 21 years old medical student now in the third year. He has studied medicine course in Catholic University of Pelotas since 2017. In 2018 he has volunteered for clown therapy and has become member of Medical Education committee at IFMSA Brazil UCPel. In the same year, has performed monitoring in the areas of biochemistry, physiology, histology and embryology. Nowadays, he is seeking for publications in big medias. He wants to be a professor of medicine and has interest in primary care services and general medicine.

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