My time at Swift River Family Health Clinic in Rumford, ME was one of the most fulfilling experiences that I have had during my rotations. Coming into the clinic, I wasn’t sure what to expect. During my first day, I was greeted by the doctor that I was working with as he was running to help with a delivery. We ran into the room to help catch and then examine the baby. The intensity of the situation was a surprising beginning to what ended up being an amazing month at the clinic.

Low health literacy and physician involvement
The clinic in Rumford is a small operation— a 25-bed inpatient hospital, an ER and OR, and a family medicine clinic that saw the whole spectrum of care from birth to end-of-life care. The patients that we saw presented with many of the health issues that plague most of America— heart disease, diabetes, lung disease.

One of the most pressing issues that I noticed was a general lack of medical literacy. I quickly saw that the issue wasn’t so much access as I had expected it to be in a rural location, but more a lack of understanding of their diseases—how they got to where they are and how best to slow down and even reverse the effects of their diseases. I saw the residents and doctors work tirelessly to help educate their patients about their diseases and how they can best help take care of themselves.

At the same time, I met so many patients that were dedicated to taking care of their health, and the health of their children. Still one of the most impressive and motivational moments during my time there was when a father asked what he could do to help his son with ADHD without having to resort to medication. The dedication that this father showed in wanting to help his son without resorting to medication renewed the resident and me and inspired us to find as many ways as we could to help them out.

The dedication of this clinic to help educate the people of the community was also seen through their programs such as TarWars, which helped educate elementary school kids of the hazards of smoking and helped encourage healthy lifestyle choices.

Passion for teaching
The passion and dedication the doctors and residents showed in the care of their patients was infectious. They exuded such an excitement in trying to improve how they provided care and continually adapted their style to what the patient was most receptive to.

Furthermore, the passion that the doctors and residents had for teaching was so refreshing! This excitement to teach was seen quite evidently when doctors, nurses and MAs would pull me into rooms if they had a case that they thought was interesting, or that they thought I would benefit from being a part of. The doctors and residents at the clinic went out of their way to help teach based on the patients that we saw.

One doctor, in particular, made a point not only to teach me what would be relevant for boards, but also what would be important for my other rotations such as taking the time to show me suturing techniques. Other doctors made a point to make every surgery and OBGYN patient they had into a learning opportunity for me and helped refine my techniques with certain procedures.

This dedication to the students and to teaching is one of the many things that makes Swift River such a special place. Further, the doctors, nurses, MAs and staff that I worked with embodied a strong dedication to helping patients find health within themselves, nurture that health, and help them heal themselves.