How can you keep them down on the farm?

American Medical News recently explored the increasing shortage of physicians in rural areas and the efforts of medical schools to address it. A July report by UnitedHealth’s Center for Health Reform and Modernization noted that five million American residents live in counties with fewer than 33 primary care physicians per 100,000 residents, and about 27 percent of rural primary care physicians are older than 55. According to the National Rural Health Association,only about 10 percent of physicians practice in rural America despite the fact that nearly one-fourth of the population lives in these areas.

Do you say “take me home, country roads” when you think about your future?

Further, “rural residents are more likely to be considered in poor health and have conditions such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension and diabetes,” the American Medical News article states.

These crying needs strike me as a great opportunity for up-and-coming health care providers. In addition to the critical need for their expertise and service, practice in rural areas can offer a “sense of community and personal connections with patients,” American Medical News states.

Des Moines University is working to tackle the shortage in rural Iowa and beyond. Its Rural Medicine Educational Pathway (RMEP) program offers a full-tuition scholarship to osteopathic medicine students who agree to practice primary care medicine in rural Iowa for at least four years after residency. And to draw even younger students to medicine and health care, DMU’s week-long “Youth Education in Science and Medicine” summer camp, or YES MED, invites Iowa high school students to experience the University’s faculty, facilities and hands-on learning opportunities.

“In a small town, a physician is a pillar of the community,” says Katie Schell Meyers, a DMU student and RMEP scholarship recipient from Cascade, Iowa. “It’s a chance to serve on civic committees and the local school board and to be the doctor for the high school football team.”

I applaud future physicians like Katie who embrace those leadership roles in rural areas. Are you interested in practicing in a rural area? If so, why? If not, why not?

Disclaimer: This content is created for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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