The Academic Medical Center

The term academic medical center usually describes a medical school — whether publicly owned or private — and its affiliated health care service units, particularly hospitals. These institutions are the foundation of the health care system. They not only prepare tomorrow’s doctors, but also care for patients and generate new scientific discoveries.

The University of Iowa is home to a major academic medical center made up of the Roy J. and Lucille A. College of Medicine, UI Hospitals and Clinics, other university units, and a network of other medical practices. Each of these component parts is essential to the education of a physician. While students can learn basic principles in the classroom, their education could never be complete without experience in hospitals and doctors’ offices.

Physicians who work in academic medicine fulfill several roles. At The University of Iowa, full-time faculty members in the College of Medicine’s clinical departments also are staff physicians at the Hospitals and Clinics. They treat patients, teach, and in many cases perform research. In their hospital roles, these doctors are referred to as attending physicians. They oversee the work of residents and fellows – medical school graduates pursuing advanced education in a medical or surgical specialty. They also instruct medical students getting their M.D. degrees.

A central mission of the academic medical center is the care of patients. Patients themselves make valuable contributions to the center’s education and research roles. They put a human face on issues that students may have read about in textbooks. They also assist with new discoveries by volunteering to participate in research studies.