The Rural/Underserved Opportunities Program is a fourweek- long experience that takes place after a student’s first year of medical school. During the summer, students shadow a physician in a rural or medically underserved urban setting. For most, it’s their first in-depth exposure to clinical practice, and it leaves an impression. Here are some reflections from a few of our students.
The country out here is stunning — especially as the sun drops in the evening, and the field turns brilliant shades of ocher, gold and green. I want to hop back on my bike and explore every little hilly back road, every last river bend, and scan every fence line for a bird I’ve never seen before.
In these past three days in the clinic, I’ve seen all manner of folk, old and young, stoic and scared, healthy and sick, wealthy and poor. And I’ve seen people of different cultures, races and religions. And there are big, challenging issues I’ve confronted every day in the clinic — issues like access to ob care, access to dentistry, drug and alcohol abuse, and childhood obesity. From an epidemiological perspective, these issues are monstrous.
But somehow these challenges are made bigger, more real and more personal when they manifest in an individual in front of you — in a single person suffering. I’ve already learned a lesson about judgment, about making pre-conceived notions of a place. The human challenges have made it obvious — this is a much bigger town than I imagined.
Going to work in a hospital and clinic setting is a stark contrast to the classroom work that consumed most of our first year of medical school. My first day in clinic with the doctor gave me an immediate reminder that the circumstances you are placed in as a physician are incredibly unique and extraordinary. I got to take part in two cases that drastically changed the lives of two community members and their families.
These cases just happened to be the first and last cases of my first day. The first, the birth of a beautiful baby girl for a newly formed family unit to love and adore. The last, a love lost unexpectedly. For one family, it was a day to be cherished and remembered; for another, a day that brought devastation.
Tonight, I held M. G.’s hand and asked how she was doing. She looked up at me and said, “Hi, how are you?” This may sound like a normal patient interaction, but for me, it seemed more like a miracle.
I have seen M. G. every morning since my R/UOP began, but these are the first words we have exchanged. She has been on a ventilator and completely non-responsive. This morning at 7:30 a.m., when we checked in on her, she was unable to follow any commands or respond in a recognizable way… Now, at 9:45 p.m., here she was off the ventilator, having a conversation with me.