Brown, Pawtucket Memorial collaboration produces new teaching, basic facility

Residents of northern Rhode Island have another place to get basic health care and students at Brown University’s School of Medicine have a brand new classroom. The one-and-the-same facility is a 35,000-square-foot wing at Pawtucket Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island, where patients are benefiting already from the training of primary-care doctors.

The $4.5-million complex (on the southeast corner of the hospital facing Brewster Street) includes 25,000 square feet of new construction and 10,000 square feet of renovated space where doctors are helping identify and treat patients’ problems and referring them to specialists when necessary.

The wing’s first floor comprises doctor’s offices and examination rooms with the look of a private practice. The second floor will be filled with computers, libraries and study areas.

“The primary thrust of Memorial Hospital is that of preventive medicine by which we provide advance diagnosis and treatment for medical problems with the clinical, teaching and research components (being) the focus,” said Francis R. Dietz, the hospital’s president.

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Primary care physicians form the first line of defense against illness. Unlike specialists, they are trained as the principal point of ongoing contact for patients within the health-care system.

As medical care becomes more specialized and treatments more sophisticated, there is a growing need for doctors who can track a person’s health over time, Dr. H. Denman Scott, the medical school’s physician-in-chief said at a March 4 dedication ceremony.

Brown residents in family and internal medicine will work in teams under faculty guidance. Whenever possible, patients will be seen by the same doctor who will follow their care even if they are hospitalized.

The new facility is also home to the Brown University Center for Primary Care and Prevention – an interdisciplinary research program focused on community based health promotion, such as the prevention of illness in minority populations, care for the under-served and the development of primary care networks in other countries.

“The health of individual patients is closely interwoven with the health of the surrounding community,” said Dr. Vincent R. Hunt, physician-in-chief of family medicine at Memorial and chairman of Brown’s department of family medicine. “This center is a manifestation of this symbiotic relationship representing an outpouring of community support.

“In turn, those of us who work here are challenged and energized by this support to provide the best possible care to our patients within the context of their families and community,” he said.

Dietz said the new center reinforces the hospital’s mission of caring for the needs of ordinary people. Memorial and Brown have been collaborating in this area of care since 1973. The hospital was a founding partner of the university’s medical school. The two entered a more formal seven-year partnership in 1996, when they agreed to enhance primary care teaching, research and services.

“Memorial Hospital is Brown’s leader for primary care teaching and research,” said Dr. Donald Marsh, dean of Brown’s medical school. “The dedication of the Center for Primary Care provides an opportunity to restate our commitment and support for the primary care research being conducted by Brown faculty at Memorial.”

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