Community and Family Case Studies (CFCS), which was formulated in 1982, is an integral part of the undergraduate training programme at the School of Medical Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) leading to the Degree of Medicine (MD). The programme consists of a 12-week teaching block in Phase II and a self-directed learning activity in Phase III. The two-part CFCS programme is a central feature of community oriented training in medicine at the School of Medical Sciences, USM.
Essentially the programme provides students with an experiential learning through a holistic and multidisciplinary approach to patient care. In Phase II they are provided with basic tools in public health to enable them to identify, assess and deal with health problems as well as undertake health intervention activities. In Phase III, students negotiate a learning contract with their Group Supervisors to determine their own learning objectives, strategies to achieve them and the criteria to assess the evidence produced for the contract.
Supervision by lecturers is critical in both phases. They are expected to expose students to real field situations so that the latter gradually develop their skills in communication and solving problems, become more confident in their work and understand the interplay of factors affecting health and illness in the community. What the students learn in the community supplements what is taught in lectures and in the wards so that they become truly oriented to the health needs of the community around them upon graduation.
CFCS programme truly reflects the philosophy and educational approaches of the Medical School. At the same time, it also serves as a “field laboratory” for the medical school as well as bridges the school with the community. The programme has been beneficial to both students and the communities that they have been working with. It has now received international recognition and has been duplicated by other medical schools in the country.