Fertile ground: rich opportunities in rural medicine

March 18, 2013 —

We were just getting the spring issue of DMU Magazine to the printer last week when I came across an article on the Kaiser Health News website titled, “Osteopathic Physicians: An Answer to Rural Health Care Needs?”

It just so happens that the spring cover story of DMU Magazine is all about rural medicine. The shortage of health care providers, especially those in family practice, is a burden to people who live in generally underserved rural areas and a big headache to health care organizations seeking staff for rural clinics and hospitals. But that shortage is producing a bumper crop of opportunities for health care providers ready to embrace rural life and practice.

For health care providers, rural America is producing a lot more than crops and cattle.

For health care providers, rural America is producing a lot more than crops and cattle.

“One thing that’s appealing to me about rural medicine is the diversity,” second-year DMU osteopathic medical student Bill Bensen told me for the DMU Magazine article. “It’s an opportunity to do family practice, which is my love, as well as emergency medicine and obstetrics.”

Bill is one of DMU’s osteopathic, podiatric, physician assistant and – starting this fall, physical therapy – students who participate in DMU’s Rural Medicine Educational Pathway (RMEP), which offers an elective on rural health and medical topics as well as scholarships for select participants. Scholarship recipients commit to practicing in a rural Iowa community for as many years as they receive the scholarship.

According to the Kaiser Health News article, our RMEP students also are among the growing number of osteopathic medical graduates, 60 percent of whom “gravitate toward primary care, compared with 24 percent of their MD counterparts.” And many of those osteopathic physicians are drawn to practice in rural areas, where they’ll care for a broad range of patients and conditions.

“As a family practice physician, I will play the roles of physician, counselor, teacher, leader and patient advocate,” says Stacie Kasper, a 2012 DMU graduate and one of the first six recipients of the University’s RMEP scholarship. “I will be an integral part of the community.”

Watch the DMU website in April for our spring magazine. In the meantime, if you work in rural medicine or plan to in the future, why did you choose that path? What are its advantages, challenges and joys?


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