The rural family medicine elective at Dixon Rural Training Track, in Dixon, IL was my third elective in family medicine during my third and fourth year clerkships. I had a strong interest in family medicine and I knew all along that I wanted to pursue family medicine. I truly realized the intensity of family practice during this rotation in Dixon.

Safe, welcoming, warm rural hospitality
I come from a small town, slightly larger than Dixon, and felt like I was at home as soon as I got there. The town is located on the beautiful Rock River and it takes only a few minutes to reach all amenities within the town. It is a safe small town and an excellent place to raise a family in a close-knit community setting.

Before I arrived in Dixon, I had been in touch with the program coordinator at the Dixon Rural Training Track program. She was a tremendous help in setting up the rotation and took care of all the paperwork. They also provided free housing, parking, and meals. I arrived stress free and with less burden, not having to worry about housing and such. The people in the program and the community itself were very warm and welcoming.

True realization of ‘family’ in Family Medicine
It was approximately 9:30 p.m. on a Thursday evening. The resident on call texted me saying she was heading to the hospital for a new admission. I lived across the street so I walked over to the hospital within 5 minutes of the resident physician’s text. When I arrived, I met the resident on call and the patient’s long-time family physician, who wasn’t on call that evening. His colleague, another attending physician, was there to attend to this patient, but he was present to support the patient’s family members whom he had known for many years as well. He sat down to discuss the medical prognosis of the patient’s condition, but also to be a facilitator in decision making for the family. This was exemplary ‘family’ medicine and is exactly what I envisioned myself doing as a family physician – being there to support a patient and their family by being a mediator, not only from a medicine perspective but also from a social aspect. A patient can get overwhelmed with new faces during an illness and especially when a family has a hard decision to make. The faculty physician explained to us that having him around made the hard discussion a much easier and smoother one because they had known him as their family doctor for many years.

A typical day for a student in Dixon
My day started around 6:45 – 7:00 a.m. each day. I would round with the resident on service for the week. I followed two or three patients each day, obtained patient history and physical exams, and followed up on lab and other test results. Just before 8:00 a.m., I would meet with the resident and discuss the patients I was assigned. Residents would point out things that I may have missed, things to look out for, ask questions and guide me on how they would do something differently – a great learning experience from the very start of any day. At 8:00 a.m., I attended morning rounds where all residents and attending physicians would meet every morning to discuss all admitted patients that were being seen by the residents. Residents would present their patients and faculty members would ask questions on patient care, discuss the case, and assist the resident physician in determining a management plan for the particular patient. As a medical student, I also got a chance to present the patients I followed at the morning rounds and had the chance to participate in the morning round discussions. I felt like a member of the team at all times, was included in the discussions, and learned a lot about patient care.

At 9:00 a.m., I would present to the family health center outpatient clinic. Each day, I was scheduled to work with a different resident physician. Clinic would end around 5:00 p.m. and then the same resident physician on service would have go to the hospital for new admissions and I was able to join them. Typically, my day would end around 6:30 – 7:00 p.m. On top of this, there were many opportunities in obstetrics — deliveries that would happen in the wee hours of the morning.

What was unique about the rural rotation in Dixon was the variability throughout the day. Every single day of my rotation included heavy inpatient exposure, outpatient, obstetrics, procedures, and home visits. During my four weeks rotation, there were many opportunities to learn all different aspects of family medicine at the same time.

The rural family medicine exposure I received in Dixon has completely changed my view on family medicine, especially rural family medicine. I am sincerely hoping to be trained in a rural family medicine setting because the rigorous training offered will prepare me best for the intensity of rural family practice.

Outstanding learning environment
The Dixon Rural Training Track has outstanding faculty physicians and residents who are always willing to teach. As a young student being exposed to heavy inpatient services, obstetrics, and geriatrics, there was a lot to learn, but I felt very comfortable asking questions and received answers without hesitation. Residents actively took part in teaching, often pointing out interesting cases and encouraging me to participate in patient care.

What I enjoyed a lot was didactic afternoons every week. Didactics were very interactive, in the form of lectures, presentations and lots of active discussions and questions. I had the opportunity to do a presentation on a unique rash case I had seen during my time there. A few weeks after completing my rotation, I received feedback particularly on my presentation apart from my evaluation. It was great to know where I could improve and where I was doing well. This showed their dedication to teaching by providing feedback, including constructive criticism and encouragement.

In conclusion, my rotation in Dixon was an excellent experience. I had gone into this rotation knowing I wanted to pursue family medicine. After completing four weeks in Dixon, I was positive that I not only wanted to practice family medicine, but rural family medicine, so I can continue to make a difference in people’s lives by placing the “family” into medicine.