The Family Medicine Residency program is located in northern Manhattan's Washington Heights community, populated by both longtime residents and recent immigrants from a host of countries such as Ecuador, Mexico, Bolivia, Cuba, West Africa, and a very large contingent from the Dominican Republic.

The neighborhood reveals a mosaic of people from different cultures faced with the issues of educational deficiencies, unemployment, and poverty that both create health problems and limit access to health care. Many of the recent immigrants are challenged with language barriers, mental stresses and cultural adjustment, while some fear deportation. Despite these problems, the community remains alive and vibrant with a richness of tradition, survival, and hope.

Because of the vicinity’s special characteristics, the traditional "family medicine" model addresses only one part of the community members' health-care needs. The Family Medicine Residency Program strives to additionally work with the community, both as its patient and partner in developing strategies to address its health concerns.

This approach, known as Community-Oriented Primary Care (COPC) is one of the foundations of the Family Medicine Residency Program at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital: Columbia University Medical Center. Over their three years of training, residents in the program learn to analyze a community, build an active, mutually respectful relationship with its constituents, and collaborate to bring about interventions to improve the community's health.

In their intern year, residents spend one month in the COPC block rotation, during which they receive didactic education on the different populations and agencies in the community. Residents also learn the basics of medical Spanish, gain proficiency in the computerized informatics systems at the medical center, and become familiar with various health related epidemiological data bases as well as the research process. In their second and third years, residents participate in community service, community educational initiatives and outreach (the elderly in senior citizen centers, adolescents in schools, needle exchange programs, the homeless, etc) while working continuously for the remaining two years on a chosen COPC project with the community. Project outcomes are reported prior to graduation from training.