College of Medicine Students Go West for Clinical Rotations

ByElizabeth Adams

 She didn’t stand in the back or the room or watch over the shoulder — she was the first person to hold the babies. While Dowdy acknowledges that the UK Chandler Hospital is an incredible setting for a medical education, she encountered more opportunities work with patients in a smaller medical environment in Murray, Kentucky.

 Dowdy was one of two inaugural students to complete rotations through the Western Kentucky Initiative (WKI), a program that places third-year students at medical practices and hospitals in Murray/Paducah, Bowling Green and Owensboro. Students complete five rotations required in their third-year curriculum during a 20-week period based in one or more of these communities. Like the students who participate in the College of Medicine Rural Physician Leadership Program in Morehead, these students receive more hands-on opportunities to practice real-life medicine and one-on-one mentorship from practicing doctors.

 Students who are from Western Kentucky or who received their undergraduate education in the area are encouraged to consider participating in the WKI.

 Dowdy, who grew up in Murray, decided to go back home to complete four of the five required rotations included in the program. She completed her psychiatric rotation in Paducah. The daughter of a surgeon, Dowdy already knew many of the doctors who served as her faculty preceptors. She said these doctors, who aren’t grouped with fellows, residents and students, were natural teachers to a classroom of one. She enjoyed the experience so much that she has made special arrangements to complete three of her fourth-year elective rotations in Murray.

 This year, seven students have committed to participate in the WKI. Dr. James Norton, associate dean for educational engagement, said the ratio of health care providers to patients in Western Kentucky lags behind the national average. The College of Medicine continues to build medical practices in Eastern Kentucky by exposing future doctors to health disparities through the Rural Physician Leadership Program, but the WKI turns attention to the need for doctors in Western Kentucky.

 Norton hopes the program will spark an interest in students who will consider returning to Western Kentucky to practice. The WKI works with Area Rural Health Education Centers to place students with community preceptor doctors. Students who are from the area will receive first priority in the program, although Norton would like to see the program grow every year. About 25 students expressed an interest in participating during a meeting on Aug. 15 and would represent the third class entering the program in 2015.