The division of community medicine oversees the Socorro Community Partnership Clinic in which students and residents rotate as part of their established curriculum and/or as an elective. The clinic resides in east El Paso County and is partnered with the Socorro Independent School District. This Community Partnership Clinic is located in some of the most underserved and impoverished sections in far west Texas. These areas of west Texas have poverty rates that reach over 30% of the population and each of the clinic communities qualifies as health professional manpower shortage area (HPSA) by the Department Health and Human Services (as a result, the clinic also serves as a National Health Service Corp. site). Many of these areas contain "colonias" which are small, non-incorporated areas of the county of El Paso that were developed without civic infrastructure. This means that many of these residents may be living without access to basic necessities such as running water, sewage, or electricity.
As students and residents rotate through these clinics, we not only teach and hone clinical medical skills, but we work at teaching the concepts founded by doctors W. Pickle and S. Kark of Community Oriented Primary Care (COPC). By working within a COPC model, the physician not only treats his patients but tries to treat the community as well. The COPC model combines medicine with public health and offers a structure to identify community problems and create and implement programs to address these problems. As a result, the physicians who work in these clinics are not just "Doc in the box" physicians but real community physicians, knowledgeable in their specific areas and constantly active in different community activities.
More recently, community-based participatory research (CBPR) takes place in community settings and involves community members in the design and implementation of research projects. Such activities should demonstrate respect for the contributions of success which are made by community partners as well as respect for the principle of "doing no harm" to the communities involved.
In order to achieve these goals, the following principles should guide the development of research projects involving collaboration between researchers and community partners, whether the community partners are formally structured community based organizations or informal groups of individual community members.
As a result of being active in the communities, an overriding topic in almost everything we do is the proximity to Mexico and the bio-psycho-social consequences this brings for our patients and our communities. In response to this, during the rotations in the Community Partnership Clinic a "Border Health 101" type of experience introducing the students and residents to the cultural, economic, social and political aspects of health care along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The Community Partnership Clinic, through the division of community medicine offers an experience that is unique to this area and this area only. The combination of a COPC and CBPR oriented primary care site in the setting of the U.S.-Mexico border provides a very rich environment for students and resident to expand and sharpen their clinical and community skills.