RPAP – the Cornerstone of My Medical Training

Published in Medical Students

I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised when I opened up the envelope in the mail this past summer to find out that I had been chosen to be the Rural Physicians Associate Program (RPAP) Student of the Year!  It’s really a tribute to my colleagues Dr. Richard Wehseler, my primary preceptor, and Gina Hatlestad the nurse I got to work with at the ACMC-New London/Spicer clinic and the experiences I was able to have while I was there.

I chose to participate in the RPAP program because I have a strong interest in rural family medicine and it allowed me to try on the life of a rural physician for nine months. This experience has confirmed in my mind that this is what I want to do when I am done with my residency.  It was an absolute joy to work at the clinic in New London.  The clinic is just beautiful; it’s located just off the main highway where it gives a little country feel to the setting.  I even had my own office which is almost unheard of in the world of medical students.

While I was there I had lots of hands-on experience, more than most students I know that trained in urban settings.  When you do rotations at bigger facilities, you are typically only at a hospital or clinic for 3-6 weeks so you kind of live transiently.  The RPAP program gives you a chance to become part of a community for nine months and volunteer with local projects.

Coming back into rotations now during my fourth year of medical school, it becomes pretty evident just how advanced my clinical skills are because of the experience I got at ACMC.  Dr. Wehseler was an amazing teacher as were Dr. Steven Shelver, Dr. Terry Peterson and Dr. Amber Vick.  They all enjoy teaching and would grab me when they knew there would be something interesting coming in so that I could learn as much as I could maximize my learning.  The patients at the clinic were also very accommodating to having a medical student help to take care of them.

Since I’ve been back to Minneapolis/St. Paul, I’ve only done hospital-based rotations and electives.  I’m definitely going through family medicine withdrawal!  It was such a big part of my life for nine months and it’s what I’m passionate about, so it’s been hard just going cold turkey as I hit the books to finish my electives. When I talk with my fellow medical students I speak very highly of ACMC and recommend them as future employers.  I also tell any residents that I see that if they haven’t signed yet, there is this great system in southwest/central Minnesota that they need to check out!

I will graduate from medical school this May. I’ve got my applications in and will find out in March where I will spend the next three years for my residency.  I feel so fortunate to have been able to have the experience I did at ACMC-New London/Spicer and it has really kind of become my standard as to what I am looking for in a practice when I am done with my residency.

*Sarah was nominated for this award by her preceptor, Dr. Richard Wehseler.  In his words “Sarah made numerous contributions to our clinic and community.  Her ability to bond with patients and families was so important; we often have patients that still ask for updates on her progress since she has left us.”