I grew up in a small town, with rolling hills scattered with family farms a mere hour’s drive from a bustling metropolitan hub. It was in this environment that I first thought of a career in medicine and where I began envisioning my life as a physician. The encounters I had in doctors’ offices and hospitals in my childhood and adolescence were the experiences many people would be thrilled to have – a doctor I knew from the time I was able to recognize faces, assistants that were always helpful and patient, and hospital staff that went the extra mile to ensure that I, and my family, were comfortable and taken care of if we were in the hospital for anything from an asthma attack to caring for an elderly relative.

Finding the right program
Before applying to the Family Medicine program in Dixon, IL, I had heard a great deal about it. I had been told that the program offered the things I looked forward to most while completing my family medicine rotation. The rural environment appealed to me because I feel that physicians in non-urban areas are often the only care provider and thus have exposure to a vast array of conditions not often seen by general practitioners in larger centers. The procedural aspect of the training appealed to me, as well as the clinic experience compared to a more hospital-based inpatient environment.

When I arrived to complete my rotation I was blown away by not only the faculty and residents, but also by the nursing and ancillary staff in both the inpatient hospital and the main clinic. Everyone was incredibly helpful and eager to educate the other students and me. The residents and faculty encouraged me to interact as if I was at a resident level, though I wasn’t technically completing a Sub-Internship (or Acting-Internship), and this helped me to build confidence in my diagnostic ability and treatment plans.

Care over the life cycle
I was able to care for patients of every age group, from newborns just following delivery (which I was able to scrub into), to well-child and adolescent check-ups, to adults, geriatrics, and even those in a retirement community that the residents visited weekly. The program gave me a look into a day-in-the-life of a rural family doctor, which is exactly what I was looking for.

Procedurally, the program was very gratifying. I was encouraged to participate in line insertions and resuscitation codes while working at the inpatient facility, IUD placements, wound care, I&Ds, and punch biopsies while in the clinic – all things that typical rural family doctors do on a weekly, if not daily, basis. In each of the procedures the residents took the provider-role, and it was a great experience to work with such autonomy.

After completing my rotation in the Dixon Rural Training Track, I can safely say that I could not imagine practicing family medicine in an inpatient-based urban center and not in a rural setting. This program instilled in me a great respect and admiration for rural physicians who often work long hours, without access to subspecialty services, and thus require a solid foundation of knowledge, which begins with great training. This program exemplified the ability of a physician to change the course of a patient’s life, through forging strong relationships, having open dialogue and providing access to care in a setting familiar to the patient.