Rumford, Maine is a small town with fewer than 6,000 residents, located approximately two hours north of Portland, Maine. Its location, in the foothills of the White Mountains, boasts of a beautiful environment with great recreational opportunities. In addition to skiing and hiking, the Androscoggin River is a great place to paddle along and there several lakes nearby. Rumford is home to a ski resort and a paper mill that brought the town significant fame and wealth in years past. It is also home to Rumford Hospital, a 21-bed critical access hospital that provides much-needed services to the local population. Most of my experience during my rural rotation as a medical student in Rumford was at Swift River Family Medicine, located across from the hospital, and Elsmore-Dixfield Family Medicine in a neighboring town, both associated with the Central Maine Medical Center Family Medicine Residency Program.

High quality learning environment
The staff that I worked with were very knowledgeable and compassionate and had a real passion for teaching. There was a great mix of hands-on learning by managing patients and learning in the didactic sense. The residents at Rumford were phenomenal. In addition to exhibiting strong knowledge and skills in a wide range of topics, they exuded confidence and genuine interest in their patients. A range of cases was seen, from obstetrics and pediatrics to psychiatry and general medicine. There were also a number of procedures performed in clinic and in the hospital. I was thoroughly impressed with everyone at the facility and the quality of training provided.

For a number of years, the idea of rural medicine has been growing in my mind, but I had no exposure to it. I subconsciously idealized rural medicine and became convinced that this was the type of future I wanted to pursue. After all, I wanted to practice full-spectrum medicine, and I much prefer nature to bustling cities; what issues could I possibly have with rural medicine? This rotation was incredibly valuable for many reasons, not the least of which was giving me a real taste of rural medicine on which to base my future decision of residency setting. Having an understanding of the pros and cons of any situation is crucial to making a good, informed decision and this rotation brought me closer to that point.

Many of the positive aspects of rural medicine that I had idealized were materialized; I loved the full spectrum of patients and cases that I saw in clinic, the opportunity for both medical management and completion of procedures, and the beautiful natural environment. At the same time, my eyes were opened to challenges faced by rural physicians. I realized for perhaps the first time how much I depend on my family and friends, experienced the difficulty of meeting people outside of work, and came to appreciate the numerous benefits afforded by cities. These were things that never crossed my mind and were important to consider when making a decision, and to mentally prepare for once that decision is made.

Spending a month in a rural training track in Rumford is possibly the best decision I made this year. The beautiful environment and friendly, knowledgeable, and all-around great staff made the month very enjoyable. I learned a lot on this rotation, from a medical and also from a personal point of view, and gained a new perspective. The experience of rural medicine is one I highly recommend for all medical students considering providing primary care in their future.