Madison’s Family Medicine Residency Program Director Dr. Kathy Oriel

MADISON- More resident physicians will be working in underserved rural areas of Wisconsin thanks to a four-year, $675,000 grant to the department of family medicine and community health at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health.

Madison’s Family Medicine Residency Program Director Dr. Kathy Oriel said two new resident positions will be added each year at the UW Health Belleville Clinic beginning in fiscal year 2018, doubling the number of residency spots in Belleville. At the end of the four-year period, there will be an additional eight resident positions. The grant is from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services Graduate Medical Education Residency program.

The goal of the state grant program is to increase access to quality health care by increasing the number of physicians practicing in rural and underserved areas of Wisconsin. Oriel said a Rural Health Equity (RHE) track will be the focus of this innovative program, focusing skills specifically on health disparities well-known to impact rural people more often than those living in urban areas.  Resident physicians will partner with communities, public-health researchers, and multidisciplinary teams to better understand and eliminate health disparities.

“The RHE track will provide the residents with community health and population skills to be discerning advocates about health disparities,” said Oriel.  “Not only will the first-year residents be working with patients at the Belleville Clinic, they will be practicing with rural supervising physicians in emergency medicine, surgery and sports medicine.  Second and third-year residents will focus on specific considerations when providing care in rural areas in specialty areas of internal medicine, obstetrics, gynecology, ophthalmology and orthopedics.”

The second and third-year rotations will be in Keshena, Lancaster, Richland Center, Beaver Dam, Lake Mills, Monroe and others.  First-year residents will have opportunities to rotate at SSM Health St. Clare Hospital in Baraboo, Monroe Hospital and Clinic, Divine Savior Hospital in Portage and Sauk Prairie Hospital.

In addition, Belleville RHE-track residents will spend four weeks on evaluation and therapies for substance-abuse disorders.  They’ll work with mental-health professionals to evaluate and provide initial therapy for serious mental illness and substance abuse.

The residents will also have a chance to attend national and statewide meetings on rural health.

“We want them to become leaders by serving as resources on issues of rural health, and by meeting national leaders during residency training, they start their careers ahead,” said Oriel.

Family medicine residents are trained in full-spectrum, comprehensive care including obstetrics, the care of infants and children, the care of adults with acute medical needs as well as chronic medical conditions.  Family medicine also focuses on improved health through preventive care.  They work in a variety of settings including hospitals, outpatient clinics and nursing homes.  Oriel said this makes family medicine an ideal specialty for practice in rural areas where access and availability of health care resources can be scarce.

“We know that primary-care physicians are in short supply in the U.S., particularly in rural areas,” said Oriel.  “Studies have shown that residents trained in a rural setting tend to go into practice in rural areas.”

Published: October 2016