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Meeting Local Needs, in Wisconsin and Utah

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Meeting Local Needs, in Wisconsin and Utah

Dec 02, 2022

Health care and medical education have traditionally been centered in big cities. But 20% of the U.S. population lives in rural areas—and only 5% of applicants to medical school come from those same rural areas. Two leaders in academic medicine discuss pathways at their respective schools and ideas they can share to get better together.

In this Conversation: • Christy Porucznik, PhD, MSPH, Vice Dean for Faculty, Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine at University of Utah; Professor, Division of Public Health
• Jake Prununske, MD, MSPH, Assistant Dean for Clinical Learning, Medical College of Wisconsin

Episode Transcript

Christy Porucznik: We're sitting here at the AAMC conference in Nashville in 2022. My name is Christy Porucznik. I'm the Vice Dean for Faculty at the Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine. Happened to run into one of our family medicine graduates who's here attending the conference. Introduce yourself.

Jake Prunuske: Hey. Thanks, Christy. I'm Jake Prunuske. I'm an academic family doc currently serving as the Assistant Dean for Clinical Learning at the Medical College of Wisconsin's, Central Wisconsin campus.

Christy: Great. I'm so glad to see you here. So one of our themes that we're talking about at the conference today is what are you building? What are you doing that's new? So what I want to ask you is what are you looking forward to doing to build something new in academic medicine?

Jake: Yeah. We have a lot that we've been doing. We're a relatively new campus, now about seven years old, and we have a regional mission to make doctors who want to serve central and northern Wisconsin and parts around. The need right now is greatest in family medicine, to a lesser degree internal medicine and peds, and, of course, psychiatry.

One of the things we're looking forward to that's new is our Pathways Programs, trying to help people get into medicine. Right now, less than 5% of applicants to medical schools are from rural areas, even though 20% of the U.S. population lives in rural places. And so we have this mismatch between the physicians we're creating and the physicians our communities need.

It's really hard to take someone who grew up in a big city and is used to a certain lifestyle and have them practice in a rural or remote area. So we're really trying to build our pathways for students who grew up in rural areas to become physicians.

The other thing we're looking forward to that's new is really working on equity and diversity and inclusion. Some of that is a rural-urban disparity.

Christy: For sure.

Jake: But we're also looking at other aspects of diversity, really intentionally trying to meet a local need. So about 15% of our community is Hmong, and we're trying to build a pathway program that's actually starting in middle school to help our Hmong students become physicians as well.

Christy: That's really, really interesting. And you might think that it's strange that . . . In some ways, Utah and Wisconsin are so far apart, but we have really similar issues. We have a lot of rural areas where people have lack of access to health care in part because it's hard to get people to be there. And one of our missions with . . . We have rural outreach as well. So it's fun, and it's nice to think about what ideas we can share to be better together.