Providing health care for people in rural communities certainly has its challenges.

But it also offers many rewards. This prospect is bound to appeal to some of those who will make a career in this profession.

SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse offers training for individuals who are willing to experience working in small-town settings. As part of its Rural Medical Scholars Program, the school allows students to spend an Immersion Week at designated health care facilities.

Hospitals in the north country have opened their doors to these students, and they are an excellent resource for those who make use of this program. The medical students get a taste of how health care professionals in rural areas tend to the needs of their neighbors.

“A highlight for students in Upstate’s rural training program is the annual Immersion Week elective the summer after their first year in the College of Medicine. Students live and train in a small town working side by side with local physicians. They also meet with community business owners, high school students and health care experts to delve deeply into the rural health needs of the host community, said Carrie Roseamelia, Ph.D, assistant dean for rural medicine,” according to information on SUNY Upstate Medical University’s website. “During the week, RMED students mentor local high school students, shadow physicians across specialties and volunteer in the community. For course credit, they write personal reflections and collaborate on a short video of their experiences to share with the host community. Rural Immersion Week began as a pilot in summer 2015 with four students living in Oswego, Dr. Roseamelia said.”

Five students participated in the Rural Immersion Week in June. They were Carolina V. Alexander-Savino of Bolivia, Tyler G. Fuller of York, Kyle A. Powers of Vestal, Almasa Talovic of Binghamton and Brandon J. Zaffuto of Rochester.

The local health care facilities involved were Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center in Ogdensburg and Lewis County General Hospital in Lowville. Canton-Potsdam Hospital also has previously hosted students.

“This year’s program featured [a] one-on-one shadowing experience that allowed participants to observe physician-to-patient interactions as well as to spend time in specific fields of possible interest such as pediatrics, family medicine, surgery, orthopedics, emergency medicine and dermatology,” according to a story published July 2 by the Watertown Daily Times. “But first, students were sent on a scavenger hunt across the Lowville community. Their mission was to find local businesses, to learn how locals came to be in the community and what they enjoyed about living there, and to understand what residents were looking for in a physician.”

Providing medical treatment to people living in rural communities can be difficult. Regions of the country such as Northern New York have unique issues that health care professionals must confront every day.

“Some of these, according to the Centers for Disease Control, … include higher rates of death due to heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic lower respiratory disease and stroke [as compared to] urban Americans,” the Watertown Daily Times story reported. “Rural residents also tend to be older and may live farther away from medical facilities.”

Working in such an environment takes doctors, nurses, physician assistants and medical staff members dedicated enough to overcome these problems and give their patients the best care possible. We commend SUNY Upstate Medical University for offering program and are grateful for the students who spend part of their summer in our health care facilities.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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