HOUGHTON - In their second week now, four aspiring doctors are shadowing physicians at Aspirus Keweenaw and Portage Health to learn the ropes of rural medicine.
The four students from the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine Upper Peninsula Region are getting first-hand experience practicing rural family medicine in the Copper Country, shadowing a series of established doctors.
Kahlie Hauser and Ryan Woods are training with family medicine physicians David Kass, M.D., Douglas McKenzie, M.D., and Bruce Trusock, M.D., of the Portage Medical Group.
Stacey Kukkonen/Daily Mining Gazette
From left, Kahlie Hauser, Douglas McKenzie, M.D., and Ryan Woods are shown at Portage Health in Hancock. Hauser and Woods are students from the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine Upper Peninsula Region shadowing McKenzie as part of a rural medicine program.
Ivy Vachon is in L'Anse, training with Scott Pynnonen, M.D., and Todd Ingram, M.D., at Bayview Family Practice.
Eddie Kreimier is with Glenn Kauppila, D.O., at the Aspirus Keweenaw-Lake Linden clinic; Dawn Lee, D.O., and Sharon Stoll, M.D., at Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital and Bonnie Hafeman, M.D., at the Laurium Wellness Center.
Woods, of Menominee, said he became interested in the eight-week Rural Physician Program because he grew up in a rural area and wants to continue in the field.
"This gives me a great opportunity to do that," he said.
So far, Woods, who has been working with Kass, said it has been a great learning environment and respects Kass' special bond with patients.
"He has a great patient relationship," Woods said. "I feel very privileged to be able to work with him."
Hauser, of Rhinelander, Wis., is also in the same location with Woods at this time. She is currently working with McKenzie and said a typical day is never the same.
"I came from a small, rural, northern town and I want to end up back in the area," she said. "The Rural Physician Program provides a lot of hands-on experience."
RPP also affords the medical students the opportunity to reside in the community in order to get a flavor for small-town living. At any given time, they could be seeing patients, performing diabetes and blood pressure checks or treating fractures.
"We do quite a variety of stuff on any given day," she said. "It's exciting."
The MSU College of Human Medicine U.P. Region, through Marquette General Health System, is one of seven campuses across the state providing clinical training for medical students. A handful of interested students are chosen for the program and enter enriched training. Before taking on the fieldwork, the students are required to complete two years of coursework at MSU College of Human Medicine campuses in Lansing or Grand Rapids before coming to Marquette General Hospital for their third and fourth years of training.
Patti Copley, MSU College of Human Medicine U.P. Region community administrator, said the program helps give the doctors in training a leg up in the medicine field.
"These students are interested in rural medicine and working in rural communities," she said. "The whole goal of the training program is to introduce the students to this work."
The students are working in one of many communities in the U.P., giving them the opportunity to see how they work not only as a doctor, but a member of the community.
"It works well from the perspective of the rural communities because it's a great way to get these students interested in coming back to work in these communities," Copley said.
About 10 students are chosen every time the program is held and the plan is to expand over the years to accommodate the growing need for physicians practicing in rural locations. After learning about the communities, the students submit a preference list for where they would like to be placed, she said.
"They look for a community that sounds interesting to them but we ultimately place them," she said.
Since its inception in 1978, 219 medical students and 156 resident physicians have graduated from the two programs.
"It's a good experience and they enjoy it as well," Copley said.