Submission by Denise Denton, RVU Rural Outreach Contractor
Thanks to a grant from the Denver Osteopathic Foundation that was matched by RVU, the Rural and Wilderness Medicine Track (R&WM) in Colorado was able to start its new Rural Physician Mentorship Program this summer. As part of the Rural Physician Mentorship Program, R&WM Track students will spend 3-5 days with a physician in a rural or frontier practice setting during the break between their first and second years of school.
During the inaugural summer of 2019, four R&WM Track students participated and were placed in Cheyenne Wells, CO; Hugo, CO; Springfield, CO; and, Kingman, AZ. Based on the evaluations received and the stories heard – from both physician mentors and students – the program was a success.
The students were able to follow patients in a variety of settings including hospitals, clinics, emergency departments, nursing homes, specialty care clinics, and an Alzheimer’s Unit. All four students were excited about the wide range of conditions they were exposed to, from bursitis and ingrown toenails to COPD exacerbations and intracranial hemorrhages.
Students noted the challenges and rewards of practicing medicine in a small community. They observed that rural physicians typically know much more about a patient than just their presenting condition.
The student who spent five days in Cheyenne Wells described the some of the non-clinical experiences they experienced in the rural setting, as well: “I fed Dr. P’s falcon many times, visited the local fire department, hunted for arrowheads, saw some amazing sunsets, hung out with cows, fished at a local ranch, hiked to the highest point in Kansas, toured a feedlot, visited ranches/farms with a local cowboy, toured the DCP Midstream natural gas/helium plant, visited the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, was taken out to coffee or lunch each day by someone from the community, and took many photos along the way.”
Another student summed it up this way. “I thought my experience was amazing!”
Students who want to participate next year can learn more about the Rural and Wilderness Track from David Ross, DO, FACEP, Director of the R&WM Track. Currently, the mentorship program is only for Colorado students. Applications to join the track open today, October 18th, and close on November 4th.