“Love of the land” is what my dad calls it. My family lives on a Century Farm in southeast Iowa, where we grow corn and soybeans and raise swine. Growing up in rural Iowa, it is easy to see why people stay in the area. There is a great sense of community. Kids are involved in activities ranging from athletics to music, arts and drama. This not only develops well-rounded individuals but also teaches important aspects of life such as leadership, team-building, delegation, organization and a sense of camaraderie between students and community members. The community is supportive whether for fundraisers or helping someone in need.
I took these moments for granted until my father was in a serious car accident. While Dad was in the intensive care unit, friends took in my two youngest siblings, and neighbors made sure the hog chores were done. Even after Dad came home from the hospital, neighbors did the spring fieldwork because he wasn’t able to ride in a tractor with a lacerated liver.
Once, my dad severely cut his hand and was rushed to the hospital, where the doctor complained about my parents’ smell from the farm. The doctor appeared more concerned about the smell than he was about the patient.
Raised in a rural area, I know one of the pitfalls of health care is access. From my home, it was 30 minutes to the county hospital and an hour to get to the University of Iowa Hospitals if something was serious. My mom delivered all three of my siblings after an hour drive to the hospital. Once, my dad severely cut his hand working on the farm and was rushed to the hospital, where the doctor complained about my parents’ smell from the farm. The doctor appeared more concerned about the smell than he was about the patient. There is a need for family practice physicians in rural communities who understand how community members view health care and can provide compassionate care for all.
Family practice encompasses all ages, sexes, organ systems and disease entities, from newborns to elderly. A successful family physician is able to incorporate several components of patient care into a practice including accessibility, medical diagnosis and treatment, communication, coordination and continuity of care and patient advocacy. By practicing family medicine in a rural community, I will be able to improve access to care by being both financially affordable and geographically accessible when my patient has a need.
Family physicians also must be knowledgeable about a broad array of diseases. We care for acute and chronic diseases in the office, hospital, nursing home or by telephone. We must keep abreast of current preventative health care recommendations and prioritize incorporating screening into everyday practice.
Family physicians have a distinct advantage over other health care professionals: We form long-lasting trusting relationships with our patients. That can increase the likelihood that a patient will accept a diagnosis, adhere to a treatment plan and return for follow-up. Family physicians can create a nonjudgmental environment that allows patients to feel comfortable and secure about sharing personal information. We act as gatekeepers to coordinate care and serve as an entry point or first contact into the health care system.
The philosophy of family practice appeals to me. I aspire to care for a family over a long period of time, administering compassionate, competent and complete care including preventative medicine, psychiatric counseling and management of illnesses. As a family practice physician, I will play the roles of physician, counselor, teacher, leader and patient advocate. I will be able to practice in a rural setting and be an integral part of the community.
My past as a farm girl has truly influenced my future as a rural family physician. As William Jennings Bryan states, “Destiny is not a matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved.” My destiny is to provide medical care to a rural community such as mine that supported me through my life choices.
As a second-year DMU student, Stacie Kasper, D.O.’12, was among the first six recipients of the University’s Rural Medicine Educational Pathway scholarship. It covers tuition for students who agree to practice primary care medicine in rural Iowa for a specified number of years (see articles beginning on page 12). Kasper is currently in the three-year Genesis Quad Cities Family Medicine Residency Program in Davenport, IA. After residency, the Harper, IA, native hopes to practice in rural southeast Iowa.