Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Department of Family and Community Medicine

Chair’s Message

Welcome to the Department of Family and Community Medicine website. Our department prepares future generations of family physicians to be great physicians, communicators, advocates, and partners in health for the individuals, families and communities they serve.

The Role of Family Medicine

At the core of this specialty is continuity of care. Through long-term awareness of the environment, concerns, and conditions of a given patient, family physicians can raise the quality and lower the overall cost of care.

When a family physician is doing his or her job right, subspecialists – like the exceptional foundation of subspecialists of Northwestern Medicine – are only seeing those individuals who most need their care. Physicians in this specialty can take care of 80 percent of the things for which an individual would need to see a doctor, and know when to escalate to more specialized care. That 80 percent is one of the reasons that I chose Family Medicine as my specialty. During medical school, I loved all my rotations and performing a variety of clinical procedures.  I wanted a career that would offer those diverse experiences, a chance to know my patients well, and where I would treat different types of patients.


Medical students explore the principles of family medicine during all fours years of medical school. In the first two years, contextual care in the bio-psychosocial model is woven throughout all phases of the curriculum. Through the required clerkships in Primary Care and the Education-Centered Medical Home students experience the importance of continuity of care in acute, chronic and preventive medicine.  Additional experience in family medicine is available through elective time, whether in the Chicagoland area, in rural communities around the country or through international experiences.

Our department offers two unique programs to residents. The residency located in Humboldt Park is well established and offers experiences with vulnerable urban populations in Chicago. Through the resources of Northwestern, Erie Family Health and our community partners, residents develop the skills needed to be leaders in community health and improving access for underserved groups.

The program based at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital offers training in two diverse clinical settings in Lake County-- Grayslake and Erie HealthReach in Waukegan. We’re excited about this new program as the county is large, diverse, and dependent upon community based physicians.  We have an opportunity to chart the impact of our program on health outcomes in the area 10 or 20 years down the road. The Lake County location is a great opportunity for a resident who might not want to live in the city, but still have easy access to urban amenities, with the strong academic foundation of Northwestern Medicine.


Residents participate in two projects during their training, typically related to improving educational systems, community health, or patient-centered outcomes. We also have two major research initiatives active in our communities: Neighbor Carts and Chicago Community Engagement Program, with additional opportunities in partnership with our Northwestern colleagues.

We thank you for your interest in our department and programs and invite you to contact us for more information.

 Deborah Smith Clements, MD

Deborah Smith Clements, MD, FAAFP
Chair, Department of Family and Community Medicine
Nancy and Warren Fuery Professor of Community Medicine