As rural areas have an increasing demand for medical professionals, the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Peoria (UICOMP) promotes the rewards of practicing rural medicine.
The UICOMP Rural Student Physician Programs (RSPP) partners with 14 hospitals throughout Illinois, including Sarah Bush Lincoln. Third-year medical students are placed in rural hospitals to shadow physicians in different specialties. Scott Rentfrow, UICOMP RSPP participant and SBL clerk, chose Sarah Bush Lincoln because of its reputation.
“I’m local and heard wonderful things about Sarah Bush Lincoln, so I knew I wanted to complete my clerkship here,” Rentfrow remarked.
Clerkships last six months and incorporate an integrated learning model where the student serves as an apprentice for multiple departments at once. In one week, Rentfrow can spend time in obstetrics, family medicine, the emergency department, surgery, and more.
“If there’s an emergency surgery needed, but the student is shadowing in obstetrics, they can switch gears and head to surgery instead. The program offers a lot of flexibility, and the student is getting a lot of mentoring from many different specialties at one time,” James Barnett, MD, and director of the RSPP, said.
Sarah Bush Lincoln offers a wide range of specialties for medical students to observe. RSPP students most commonly work with family medicine, obstetrics, internal medicine, surgery, and pediatrics.
“We like our students to take advantage of the specialties provided at each hospital. Sarah Bush Lincoln has a strong psychiatry department, which is uncommon for many rural hospitals in Illinois. This year, Scott is learning from two SBL psychiatrists,” Dr. Barnett said.
Students accepted into the program gain a deep understanding and appreciation for rural primary care medicine. SBL providers also enjoy educating medical students and sharing their experiences with them.
“RSPP students bring in fresh knowledge, and I share my skills and experiences with them, which leads to a great partnership. I love teaching, and I definitely feel like this apprenticeship is mutually beneficial,” SBL Obstetrician/Gynecologist Scott Meyer, MD, insisted.
Dr. Meyer has apprenticed three RSPP students, something he enjoys as an UICOMP RSPP alumni himself. He chose the program because he wanted something different from the more traditional medical clerkship programs. Having lived in the Charleston area for 10 years prior, Dr. Meyer knew he wanted to practice rural medicine. In 2002, he completed his clerkship at Sarah Bush Lincoln, where he has provided care for nearly 13 years.
“I feel closer to my colleagues and patients working in a rural setting. I see patients out living their lives in the community, which is a rewarding feeling. The pace of life is slower too, and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Dr. Meyer explained.
Rentfrow grew up in Effingham so he also recognizes some patients outside of work, due to his immersion in the community. He also benefits from the slower medical setting.
“You get one-on-one time with the doctors and more time to spend with patients, which is not something you get at big teaching hospitals. Many medical programs are more urban-oriented, so it’s nice to get back to my roots. It’s unique, and I have really enjoyed it so far,” Rentfrow said.
Exposure to rural medicine often entices RSPP students to stay in that setting, making the program even more important. Together, SBL and UICOMP are working to bridge the physician shortage by providing a strong rural education curriculum.
“I care about physicians working in places of need. The rural side of medicine is so rewarding, and I appreciate the passion these students have for the program,” Dr. Barnett said.
For more information about Sarah Bush Lincoln’s professional development programs, please contact Tracey McCord, professional development coordinator, at 217 238-4987. For more information about UICOMP’s RSPP, please contact RSPP Director James Barnett, MD, at 309 672-4593.