FmStat Program Grooms Family Physicians

Share this story

Within the next 13 years the United States will need approximately 43,000 additional primary care physicians to care for a growing and aging population, according to a study published in the November/December 2012 issue of the journal Annals of Family Medicine. Compounding the issue, in September The New York Times reported a decrease in graduation rates of primary care doctors from medical institutions.

Fortunately, Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Medicine offers a program to help address this gap in human resources — the Family Medicine Scholars Training and Admissions Track, which is also known as the fmSTAT program.

Initially developed in 2010, the program provides prospective medical students with a targeted admissions process, potential scholarship money, an enhanced curriculum and a mentorship program aimed at connecting students with physicians in the community in their first year of study.

“If students come to our school and want to do family medicine, we’re going to support them every step of the way,” said Carolyn Peel, M.D., medical director of the fmSTAT program in the VCU Department of Family Medicine.

Peel has been involved with crafting the fmSTAT program since Jerome Strauss III, M.D.,Ph.D., dean of the School of Medicine, first asked her to work on a way to enhance the number of people who pursue primary care through VCU. After a year of development, the program began the admissions process in July 2011 for candidates applying to enter the School of Medicine this fall.

Suzanne Giunta, a first-year medical student, graduated from the University of Rochester with a degree in biomedical engineering and zero interest in becoming a doctor until a life-changing year abroad teaching in Guyana. Giunta devoted her spare time in South America to volunteering at a small local clinic focused on primary care and returned home with a passion for the profession.

While applying online to the School of Medicine, Giunta's responses to pertinent questions triggered an invitation to learn about and apply to the program. Once a candidate decides to apply, she must complete two additional essays. If invited, the next step includes an fmSTAT interview in addition to the typical School of Medicine interview

Peel described the extra process as a means for screening candidates for a genuine interest in family medicine in order to be admitted into the school.

Giunta and five other first-year medical students make up the inaugural class of the fmSTAT program, which began in August. Each of the six students has been paired with a mentor from the Richmond community who will help guide them throughout the next four years.

“This program is an awesome way of beginning to make connections while having support built-in instead of finding it on your own,” Giunta said.

“The fmSTAT program does a lot of work for our benefit,” said Erin Little, a first-year medical student and member of the inaugural fmSTAT class.

Peel knows other universities have programs geared towards attracting family medicine students, but they either focus on the admissions process or the enhanced curriculum. The fmSTAT program is the first she knows of that does both.

Students in the program are not contractually committed to family medicine, but Peel hopes the program’s efforts will create an environment of success where their choice to pursue family medicine will not be dissuaded for reasons of prestige or finance.

“If you are in medical school you are probably already passionate about becoming a physician,” said Little. “FmSTAT is for those who are passionate about family medicine.”

Subscribe to the weekly VCU News email newsletter at and receive a selection of stories, videos, photos, news clips and event listings in your inbox every Thursday.