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Program Exposes Medical Students To Rural Medicine

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By Joey Martin

Jerome, Idaho ( KMVT-TV / KSVT-TV ) Idaho ranks 48th in the nation for per capita primary care providers.

And many of Idaho’s primary care doctors are nearing retirement age, which means that 48th rating could become worse.

The WRITE Program, or Rural Integrated Training Experience, consisting of 5 western states, is designed to give medical students exposure to rural medicine... In the hope of increasing the chances of them staying in these communities once they graduate.

And at Saint Luke’s Jerome, that program is looking to increase the odds.

“The WRITE Program is a medical school program associated with the University of Washington where medical students spend five months doing their core curriculum in a rural place," explains Dr. Joshua Kern, Jerome Family Clinic.

Currently Idaho ranks in the bottom of the barrel when it comes to doctors per capita, and the WRITE Program is looking to change that.

“Our goal, long term, is kind of to feed the graduates from the WRITE Program into our residence. Because ultimately that's what we want to do is kind of establish a relationship with the medical students and bring them for residency, and hopefully plant them into rural part of southern Idaho," Kern says.

According to recently published research, programs like these are really making an impact.

“Medical student that do these types of programs go out to rural places at way disproportionate rates compared to other medical school programs... upwards of 70% of them end up practicing in rural locations. Whereas overall... graduates from medical school, roughly 10% wind up practicing in rural locations," Kern explains.

One of those students taking part in the WRITE Program is Benjamin Head, a 3rd year medical student out of the University of Washington.

He says the day to day, hands on experience he gets out of the WRITE Program is something you wouldn't normally do in a traditional 6 week rotation.

"The WRITE Program, I think, is an incredible way to experience medicine up close and personal. With traditional 6 week rotation system, you'll see one patient the first week of rotation, and if you get lucky, you might see that patient again the last week of your rotation... this WRITE Program allows me to see the same patient, in clinic, over the period of 5 or 6 months," Head explains.

“I think a lot of it is removing the fear... the fear of what it's going to be like to practice in a rural place. And I think these programs kind of help to take away some of that fear of the unknown," Kern points out.

Giving the future of medicine the knowledge and tools needed to come home and take care of their own, either in the big cities or small towns across the nation.

This is the first year the WRITE Program has been in place over in Jerome.

And with success stories across the nation, rural medicine could be increasing in the future.


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