An accomplished physician himself, UNC School of Medicine alumnus Dr. William Nebel knows a good doctor when he sees one. And he says Dr. Amy Shaheen, his internist of more than a decade, fits the bill as “what a real doctor should be.”
Dr. Shaheen listens to her patients, making sure they have the time and trust to express all of their concerns and share their medical histories. She’s an excellent communicator, even when in the midst of the toughest conversations. She always ensures she is up to date on the latest research and best practices in medicine and pharmacology.
When Dr. Nebel sat down to think about the legacy he would leave his alma mater, the choice was an easy one—he wished to establish a fund to honor Dr. Shaheen and expose medical students to her patient-centered approach to medicine in the hopes that they, too, would listen to their patients, communicate well, and stay up-to-date in the field. Thus, the Amy Shaheen, MD Fund for Student Research and Quality Improvement was born.
The six-week quality improvement fellowship supported by the Amy Shaheen Fund gives students the opportunity to first learn about systems and approaches that create space for a physician to focus on patient care and then to implement these systems in a real-world primary care setting.
“I can do what I do because there are intentional and deliberate systems in place that allow me to spend my time getting to know a patient,” says Dr. Shaheen.
These intentional systems are rooted in the concept of quality improvement.
Dr. Shaheen was surprised and moved when she learned of Dr. Nebel’s plans. Through his generous gift, Dr. Nebel not only honored Dr. Shaheen, but gave her an opportunity to create a paid summer fellowship that immerses medical students in the concepts of quality improvement.
“Medical students have big hearts, and they want to better serve patients,” says Dr. Shaheen.
This year will mark the third year of the quality improvement fellowship supported by the Amy Shaheen Fund; four UNC School of Medicine students have benefited from the fellowship. Lucas Frickey, class of 2022, is one of these students and completed his fellowship in summer 2019. The Marine Corps Veteran applied to medical school after being stationed at Cherry Point for three years. Frickey is still exploring the medical specialty he’ll ultimately choose, which is one reason the fellowship was so appealing to him.
“What excited me about quality improvement is that it will play a role in my medical practice no matter the field I choose,” says Frickey. “Quality improvement will always impact patient care.”
Over the summer, Frickey implemented daily huddle meetings in the primary care clinic. With stopwatch in hand, he timed these daily, stand-up meetings that addressed issues related to safety, workflow, or other immediate concerns. He’s happy to report that the average length of the huddle was just five minutes. By spending those five minutes together at the start of the day, team members freed up hours of their time to focus on what matters the most—patient care. Frickey looks forward to applying this approach in his medical practice, whichever field that may be.
“The big benefit of the fellowship is that you can apply it anywhere, no matter what specialty you go into,” he says.
At its core, quality improvement is about creating space for the one-on-one relationships that define excellence in patient care. Dr. Nebel sums it up best: “Doctor-patient relationships are core to what it means to practice medicine. I wanted to be sure this continues.”
It is because of the relationship that his physician, Dr. Shaheen, developed with him that students like Frickey will leave UNC School of Medicine ready to put systems in place that support their relationships with patients—systems that mean big improvements in patient care.
To make a gift to the Amy Shaheen, MD Fund for Student Research and Quality Improvement, please click here.