University of Massachusetts Medical School

Operation House Call is a course formed in partnership with The Arc of Massachusetts. In 1991 Boston University became a pioneer in this training when Dr. David Coulter, a neurologist whose brother has developmental disability, together with Dr. Ben Siegel, Director of Pediatric Training, approached The Arc to create the course. Their point of view was that families could effectively teach future doctors important information about living with a developmental disability.

At UMMS, Operation House Call is a requirement for all medical students. It is taught during the 3rd year pediatric clerkship training, providing a better understanding of the day to day joys and concerns, and expertise, of families who are raising a child with intellectual/developmental disabilities (IDD). Its purpose is to enhance a future doctor’s ability to partner with families and caregivers and individuals with IDD when providing health care.

Operation House Call (OHC) specifically addresses components of the pediatric clerkship learning objective about child growth and development, as students interact with children who have IDD diagnoses. Further course objectives prepare a young doctor to be an active learner as a future practitioner.

Most individuals with an IDD diagnosis have received this diagnosis prenatally or during infancy or early childhood. Therefore the pediatric training rotation is an ideal time to teach new doctors how to learn from families. Components of the course allow a pediatrician to further understand prenatal counseling and support issues relevant to families in this community.

The OHC course requirements include class time with the OHC Parent Instructor, meeting a young co-teacher with IDD, review of the OHC Website materials, a two hour home visit to a volunteer family, and student comments in the OHC Website Student Forums about their home visit experience.

Course readings, video, and resources are provided on the OHC Website. These resources are accessible to the students throughout the academic year. Peer learning is encouraged in class and in student forums as participants learn from various family experiences.

Key to this program’s success is the support of OHC volunteer families who agree to host a pair of medical students in their home. Families act as educators, providing the students with personal experiences outside of a clinical setting. Warmth, honesty, and the sharing of personal experience make these families excellent teachers of future doctors.

Operation House Call Program Contacts:

Maura Sullivan, OHC BUSM Program Director and Parent Instructor

Kim Walsh, OHC Family Coordinator,