Twenty students from the University of Missouri-Columbia spent the week in Sedalia learning more about the role health care plays in rural communities.
The MU Rural Immersion Program brought 20 students ranging from medicine, dentistry, speech and language pathology, nursing, pharmacy and public health to “understand more about rural health care and their role in the community at large,” explained Kathleen J. Quinn, Ph.D., associate dean for rural health at the MU School of Medicine.
“The students loved Sedalia,” Quinn said by email Thursday afternoon once the program had concluded. “They learned about the businesses that drive Sedalia, the educational offerings, the traditions and tourism Sedalia offers in addition to more about the health care. They have a better understanding of how they will one day work together as an interdisciplinary team of health care providers and how their work will benefit the community and the people in addition to what a great place Sedalia is to live and raise a family.”
The students had a jam-packed schedule from Monday morning through Thursday afternoon. They toured businesses such as Tyson Foods and Stanley Black and Decker, visited schools, tourism spots, the Pettis County Sheriff’s Office and farms, and attended events with Sedalia Young Professionals, the Sedalia Area Chamber of Commerce and Sedalia Rotary Club. They also visited Bothwell Regional Health Center and Katy Trail Community Health, plus heard from a panel of local health care providers.
Quinn said the community was “extremely involved” in setting up the four-day visit and many community leaders took part in the activities.
“There’s been an outpouring of support from community members,” she said. “They understand the importance of recruiting health care members and to replace those retiring.”
The program is competitive, Quinn said. It is in its third year and Sedalia’s selection comes after Chillicothe in 2017 and Hannibal in 2018.
“We started a clinical training site in Sedalia last year and we are starting a residency there in 2022. We had such an outpouring of support from Bothwell, Katy Trail and the community for these efforts, we knew the RI program would be a success,” Quinn said of choosing Sedalia. “None of our efforts would be successful without the support of the community and its leaders.”
Many of the students come from rural backgrounds and several are Bryant Scholars, a MU Pre-Admissions Program that encourages young people from rural backgrounds to pursue a medical education. Two students, Logan Fluty and Jessica Miranda, are from Sedalia.
Bothwell Director of Recruitment Beth Everts said Rural Immersion has offered her a new outlook on what potential employees may be looking for.
“I’m excited to see their perspectives of living and working in rural communities,” she said after group discussions Tuesday morning at the Katy Depot. “I hope this helps diffuse some of the preconceptions about practicing health care in rural areas. There are positive aspects of practicing medicine in small communities and this is an opportunity to showcase those. Even if they don’t work in a rural town, they can talk about the positive experience they had.”
Bothwell Chief Medical Officer Philip Fracica said recruiting health care providers from far away locations is difficult, and even more difficult if they are unfamiliar with Sedalia. The Rural Immersion Program offers a chance to educate future providers about Sedalia and rural life. It is one piece of a larger recruiting effort at Bothwell that includes the Medical Explorers high school program, shadowing opportunities, and an upcoming residency partnership with MU.
“This is just part of that to get as much exposure as possible,” Fracica said.
The week concluded with a luncheon Thursday at State Fair Community College where the students, in four groups, gave presentations about what they learned during their time in Sedalia. Several groups commended Bothwell’s efforts with recruitment and suggested doing even more programs like Medical Explorers and Rural Immersion to spur more interest.
“I really enjoyed the Rural Immersion experience and I think it would be wonderful to have some sort of program that mimics this for future possible employees for the hospital to really give them an idea of what the area is like,” Danielle Yantis said during a presentation. “You know you’re going to work in a hospital … but to really take in everything about it including the business aspect, agriculture, arts, brings it together as a whole and makes it a place you want to live.”
The students called the program an “incredible opportunity” that showed them the demand for rural health care firsthand, all while learning what it's like to live and work in such a community.
“In Sedalia we learned about community and education and all that, which I think is the biggest impact for us because you want to go to your job and not just live there for your job, you want to live there for your home and Sedalia has all those opportunities,” Ashley Patten said during a presentation.