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Learning rural health care in real time

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In July, Bothwell Family Medicine Associates welcomed two new University of Missouri medical students for a year-long training program. 

October Zhang and Abby Beach are participants in Mizzou’s Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship (LINC) program, which allows medical students to spend a year in a rural area gaining clinical experience in a variety of settings. This is the second year that Bothwell has participated in this program, which is gaining popularity around the country. 

In this program, Zhang and Beach will participate in day-to-day patient care at several clinics and departments throughout the Bothwell system, where they will have the opportunity to work with several physicians and advanced practice clinicians to develop a deep understanding of rural medicine. Much of their work will be focused at Bothwell Family Medicine Associates, which will give the students the opportunity to meet patients and follow them throughout different medical settings, from primary care to specialty care or even the Emergency Department. 

Beach said this is what drew her to the LINC program and that developing a relationship with patients allows physicians to optimize the care they give. Zhang agreed, further stating that in addition to providing continuity care, she is looking forward to making an impact within the community. 

“Health care needs are often the highest among rural communities, and I want to be a part of the solution to reduce the gap of health care between an urban city and a rural community by becoming a qualified and compassionate primary health physician serving the people with the most needs,” she said. 

Zhang moved from China to Lawson, Missouri, when she was 17 years old. As a freshman at the University of Missouri, she volunteered at the University Hospital, and from that experience, she decided she wanted to be a physician. She is now a National Health Service Corp Scholar, putting her on track to become a primary care physician in a high-need area after medical school. While she is currently interested in family medicine and psychiatry, she said she wants to explore as many specialties as possible during this year in the LINC program. However, she does know that she wants to work in a rural area and potentially move into teaching one day.

“As I become more advanced into my specialty, I would like to pass on the wisdom by being a part of a teaching program like the LINC program to inspire future generations,” she said. 

Like Zhang, Beach said she is looking forward to learning about different specialty areas, and she is planning on living and working in a rural community after graduation. She added she is currently most interested in family medicine and obstetrics but also wants to be exposed to different areas. 

Beach is from Lexington and completed her undergraduate degree at Westminster College in Fulton. She said she wants to be a physician so she can be a resource to her community. 

“Community is very important to me, and I believe that having good health care resources in communities, particularly rural, can improve them,” she said. “Everyone should be able to have someone they trust who they can turn to for help to stay healthy.”

Both students already have some familiarity with Bothwell and the Sedalia area because they participated in the University of Missouri School of Medicine’s Clinical Rural Immersion (CRI)  program last summer, where they toured Bothwell facilities and spent time in the area. 

During the next year, they will certainly get to know the community well through interactions with physicians and patients. Beach said her experience in the CRI program made her excited to return to Sedalia for the LINC program and work with the community. 

“I feel that the rural patient population is open and eager to get to know their health care team, including students,” she said. 

Zhang said she is also looking forward to returning and learning more from the physicians and taking care of the community. 

“As a rural physician, I can get to know patients as more than just a number on the chart but as a member of my community,” she said. “Nothing feels better than taking care of your family and the community.” 

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