Newswise — The sun is just beginning to rise in the sky as about 25 first- and second-year medical students file into a classroom in Evans Hall.

Peter Bidey, DO, assistant professor, family medicine, stands in front of them at a white board (not unlike TV’s House) and begins to relay to the group the case of a patient who was recently treated for diabetes-related complications through one of the College’s healthcare centers.

Dr. Bidey presents the facts of the case, tying in aspects from the second-year students’ lectures on the endocrine system, and the first-years’ lectures on biochemistry. The students, sipping the coffee and eating donuts he has provided, then create a list of questions they would ask the patient, and a diagnosis, which they then present to Dr. Bidey.

These early-morning sessions, dubbed “Coffee and Cases,” occur once a month, and are meant to be very informal. Led by Dr. Bidey and a resident from the PCOM/Suburban Community Hospital Family Medicine residency, the sessions are hosted by the Student Association of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians (SAACOFP) but are open to all DO students.

Other programs hold similar morning reports, including CRIBS (Clinical Reasoning in Basic Science), which introduces clinical problem-solving while second-year students are still learning about basic science concepts, has long been a part of the PCOM curriculum.

However, Morgan McCoy, a second-year osteopathic medicine student, says that Coffee and Cases differs in that it is a far less stringent environment and focuses its clinical concepts mainly on primary care. The seminars grew out of a desire within SAACOFP to use its monthly meetings as educational opportunities that first- and second-year students could benefit from, she added.

“We came up with Coffee and Cases as a way to introduce clinical concepts to students learning basic science. We do similar things in class, but this is a way to do it in a smaller, non-intimidating group. It helps encourage more participation,” said McCoy.

Dr. Bidey, who serves as faculty advisor to SAACOFP, said the focus on primary care may help spark interest among students and increase their desire to enter that field. A 2016 report by the Association of American Medical Colleges estimates a shortage of up to 35,600 primary care physicians by 2025.

“Some students, early on, might not realize what the range is of primary care,” said Dr. Bidey. “We're qualified to see people from birth to death, inside and outside the hospital. You can care for one family over generations, and become part of their family. Our term is ‘family medicine;’ ‘family’ is part of that.”