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OHSU Medical Students Provide Enrichment to Eastern Oregon

Three days in eastern Oregon probably wasn’t enough to be a life altering experience for eight first year medical students visiting from Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) School of Medicine, but it was enough to gain valuable perspective.

“The timing of this trip to eastern Oregon was perfect. I wasn’t sure I wanted to apply for the rural scholars program but after visiting La Grande I know that I want to apply to the program and come back to do a rural rotation in this community,” said Joey Pyor MD candidate 2019, at OHSU, from Portland, Ore.

The Oregon Rural Scholars Program combines family medicine, rural medicine and elective rotations to spend three months in rural Oregon.

Rural practitioners see a wide spectrum of cases and one of the many unique things about providing care in a rural area is the hands-on involvement with patients and the team needed to care for them.

A former Oregon Rural Scholars Program participant said, “I would argue that community medicine is not less informed, and more simple, but is instead quite elegant, allowing family medicine physicians the responsibility of managing these patients with the help of specialists through phone consults and referrals.”

Providers and administration at Grande Ronde Hospital, in La Grande, Ore., reinforced the importance of rural practitioners relating their stories of caring for patients in a rural setting.

“The affordable care act has changed how health care is delivered, placing an emphasis on preventive care in the clinic setting, which is increasing the need for primary care providers exponentially,” said Jim Mattes, president/CEO at Grande Ronde Hospital.

“I felt like a celebrity when I interacted with the community that I visited. I really didn’t have a respect for how in demand and admired doctors are in rural areas,” said Pryor.

First year medical students were able to interact with local high school students with aspirations of becoming health care providers. The resonant guidance was to do what you enjoy!

While it is true, applying to medical school is daunting it is equally as important to make sure the application reflects who you are. Being from a rural community or demonstrating a desire to practice in a rural setting is an irreplaceable value.

“The high school students asked me where I went to college and what classes I took, when I knew I wanted to practice medicine, where I volunteered and my answer to them was to pick something you enjoy and do it well. There is no prescription for getting into medical school, it’s about owning your story,” said Nicholas West, MD candidate 2019 at OHSU, from Imbler, Ore.

Many of the high school students who attended the dinner and discussions in Heppner, La Grande and Pendleton had already developed a strong understanding of health careers by taking Northeast Oregon Area Health Education Center’s Future Health Professionals of Oregon (FHPO) online class.

“In my FHPO class I researched and built a career path similar to the medical student presenters and after listening to them I have an even better idea of what it will take,” said a Pendleton High School student.

All health care providers are in demand, whether it’s a nurse, doctor, medical assistant, phlebotomist, medical coder or a scribe and Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) play a key role in connecting students to careers, professionals to communities and communities to better health. Strategically placed opportunities and experiences, and linkage both statewide and locally are keys for unlocking doors to improve health care workforce.

“I learned as much by hosting the medical students as they did by visiting eastern Oregon. It gave me a clearer picture of how and when to provide programs and services that aim to address workforce needs. This was a great experience for everyone involved,” said Meredith Lair, executive director Northeast Oregon Area Health Education Center.