Skip to main content
Med student with regular patient

Family- and Community-Centered Experience (FCCE)

The Family-Centered Experience has been an essential part of educating our medical students, and we appreciate all the time and wisdom our wonderful family volunteers have given to our students.

Faculty and administration at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine recently conducted a curriculum renewal to grow and enhance our education. Through this process, we launched the new, longitudinal Family- and Community-Centered Experience (FCCE).

What is FCCE?

Leveraging the strengths of our former Family-Centered Experience program, FCCE is a community-based program which educates our medical students while complementing and integrating with the medical school’s educational mission, curriculum and themes. In addition, students practice sensitivity, honesty and compassion in difficult conversations. 

A workgroup of community members, community agencies, students and faculty met to identify areas of concern within the northeast Pennsylvania community and developed meaningful service learning, advocacy and volunteer initiatives to advance these interests over time. These partnerships and collaborations are guided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention definition and action outlines of community engagement and the Liaison Committee on Medical Education criteria for service learning initiatives. This experience enables our students to have the macro, mezzo and micro perspective of our community.


  • Help ground students in patient-centered and relationship-centered primary care.
  • Prepare students to form relationships with diverse families, identify their needs and work with them to develop service-learning opportunities that will address that need effectively.
  • Meet community needs and gaps in services over time.

How does it work?

The FCCE complements biomedical and clinical skills training by providing students with experiences that demonstrate the personal side of medicine. Students build on their empathy and professional identity skills through longitudinal service learning, verbal and written reflections, and participation in existing Geisinger community outreach and wellness initiatives, all while engaging and partnering with the community to identify and address community priorities.

Over the three phases of our MD curriculum, the FCCE provides medical students with enhanced perspectives for an enriched humanistic approach to medicine. Through the FCCE program students participate in small group verbal, structured reflection sessions following meetings with agencies and families to explore their own personal experiences. Students, together with faculty and community mentors, will consider common themes and experiences and create a representation that expresses their views about their volunteer stories. Students can use any medium desired to convey the lessons they learned – poetry, songs, instrumental pieces, paintings, sculptures, multimedia presentations, etc.). These will be showcased throughout our campuses and in our Black Diamonds art and literary magazine.

The professional skills developed through engagement with this learning activity include empathic communication (including listening), a non-judgmental approach to discussing individual points of view, ethical considerations of the individual, and systemic and critical analysis of the complex relationships between individuals, their families and their environmental supports, and society’s approach to health, illness and well-being.

In Rachel Remen’s words, “There is a great deal more to personal wholeness than physical health and more that medicine can offer beyond curing of illness.”

The FCCE experience helps students:

  • Develop a familiarity with and value individuals in their own context.
  • Learn from others as they share their stories.
  • Gain an appreciation of the impact of health, changes in health or other challenges on a family’s life.
  • Gain an appreciation for how professional behaviors can direct people towards or away from a partnership with their physician.
  • Begin or further develop and demonstrate compassionate and empathic communication skills.
  • Encourage reflection on your own life experiences and frames of meaning.

Community partners

We are excited and grateful to be partnering with:

  • The United Neighborhood Centers
  • Food Dignity Movement
  • Jewish Family Services
  • Friends of the Poor
  • Catherine McCauley House
  • Geisinger
  • Women’s Resource Center
  • Geisinger Commonwealth's Regional Education Academy for Careers in Health – Higher Education Initiative (REACH-HEI) 
  • Women with Children Program
  • Educational Opportunity Centers, Inc.
  • NativityMiguel Scranton
  • STAR Program/Marywood University
  • Maternal and Family Health Services
  • The Children’s Advocacy Center
  • The Scranton School for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Children

Each agency will identify a project that our students will complete over 18 months with leadership and the members that attend their agency. After integrating into the agency individual families will be identified and will allow the students and their families to develop a relationship over time, exploring their perspectives and understandings as patients and as people. 

Contact us

Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine
Family-Centered Experience
Medical Sciences Building
Regional Campus Office
525 Pine St.
Scranton, PA 18509
Fax:  570-504-9636

Carly Ellman MSW, LCSW
Program Director, Family-Centered Experience
Assistant Professor of Medicine

Sharon Myers
Program Liaison, Family-Centered Experience, North Campus