“Yale medical students are incredible. They are so intelligent and so enthusiastic. It is such a pleasure to precept them,” states Richard Breier, MD, who has precepted Yale School of Medicine (YSM) MD students for the past 20 years.
Breier typically precepts six or seven students a year, having a student for almost every block of the YSM Integrated Clerkship Curriculum. When he occasionally has a free block, he “cannot resist saying yes” when Professor Peter Ellis, MD, MPH, co-director, Yale Primary Care and Psychiatry Clerkship, Internal Medicine, reaches out saying they need another preceptor/clinical site.
Breier values the opportunity to get to know the students well through the intensive one-on-one time clerkship rotations. During a rotation, a student spends all day with him, Monday through Friday, except for one-half day each Thursday when the students have didactics.
When he was in medical school, Breier’s preceptors were not strong mentors. Recognizing the power of an outstanding mentor, he committed to being highly engaged with students once he had the opportunity to serve as a preceptor.
With changes to the YSM course curriculum over time, he now precepts students earlier in their medical school experience—sometimes as early as 18 months after matriculation—but the preceptor role has not changed significantly. Breier views it as his responsibility to help bring the students along. He explains that because YSM students are such superstars, they sometimes find it difficult to feel like they cannot immediately contribute valuably to the team. He assures them that their job on the clerkship is to learn, adding that it is amazing to see students’ growth and development during the four weeks they spend with him.
For most of his career, Breier was an independent primary care practitioner. In 2020, he joined Northeast Medical Group. He describes how in primary care, so much of a doctor’s role is the longitudinal relationship with patients, so he strives to enable students to get a taste of a longitudinal relationship. He has students meet a new patient, practice building trust with them, and then tries to have the student experience a follow-up visit later in their rotation. The students think it is “awesome,” he says, to have this opportunity to build a relationship with the patients. Breier credits the patients for being “stars.” While he always asks patients if they are willing to have a student meet with them, the vast majority say yes and are accustomed to seeing a couple of different students over the course of the year.
Reflecting on being a preceptor, Breier states, “while I put a lot of time and energy into the role, I get more in return working with these students,” and he hopes to keep precepting for a long time.