UW News

August 20, 1998

Wyoming opens its first two clerkship sites for University of Washington medical students this week in Rock Springs and Jackson.

UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine

This week Wyoming opened its first two community clinical sites for training third-year University of Washington (UW) medical students.

Wyoming entered into partnership with the University of Washington School of Medicine in 1997 as the latest state to join a regionalized medical education program. Called WWAMI for the initials of the participants, Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho, the program provides medical education to students from the five states.

By conducting the first year of medical school classes at a designated public university in the students’ home states, and offering clinical training in towns throughout the five-state region, the program encourages these future physicians to practice where they are most needed — in rural towns and with medically underserved populations.

Physicians at the new WWAMI training site Rock Springs, Wyo., are teaching the obstetrics and gynecology clerkship, a patient-care course required for medical school graduation. Physicians at the new training site in Jackson, Wyo., teach the internal medicine clerkship, another required course. A third clerkship site, also in internal medicine, will open in November in Sheridan, Wyo.

Two more sites, in family medicine, will be chosen in September. Physicians in twelve towns applied to take third-year medical students for a six-week, required rotation in family medicine. Representatives from the Univerity of Washington, the WWAMI Program and the Wyoming Medical Society selected four towns as finalists, and will visit Sept. 8 to 12 for additional evaluation. Dr. Kathleen Ellsbury, UW associate professor of family medicine and Dr. Sylvia Moore, director of the WWAMI Program at the University of Wyoming and assistant dean of medicine at the University of Washington, direct this effort.

Wyoming joined WWAMI through the support of the Wyoming legislature; the governor passed the enabling bill in 1996. First-year medical classes are held at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyo. This summer 11 medical students, including all ten of the first Wyoming WWAMI students, were placed one-on-one with physicians in Wyoming towns as part of the Rural/Underserved Opportunities Program. The next step for Wyoming was to look to its own medical communty for faculty to teach third-year medical students. The Wyoming Medical Society has worked on all these efforts.

According to Moore, “The opening of the WWAMI clerkships this week helps fulfill the promise of the WWAMI affiliation: bringing the clinical training of medical students into Wyoming and involving the states’ physicians directly in teaching these students.”

In Rock Springs, Dr. Robert Fagnant of the College Hill Women’s Health Center coordinates the obstetrics and gynecology clerkship. Teaching with him are Dr. Peter Allyn and Dr. Daryl Kaan, along with other area health-care providers. The first student, Timothy Johnson of Pocatello, Idaho, is training in the outpatient clinic, labor and delivery, operating suites, medical-surgery inpatient areas, emergency department and laboratory at Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County. The hospital serves the sparsely settled southwestern quarter of Wyoming.

“When we evaluated Rock Springs as a possible teaching site,” said Dr. Louis Vontver, UW professor of obstetrics and gynecology and coordinator of medical education for his department, “we felt that the physicians, the other health professionals, hospital and town would offer an excellent experience for medical students. We look forward to a long and fruitful association with Rock Springs.”

In Jackson, a town of 6,000 in northwest Wyoming near the Teton Mountains, Jason Karro, from Mazama, Wash., is studying internal medicine with clerkship coordinator Dr. Ellen Meyers and her group of general internists. In addition, he trains with three emergency medicine physicians, a cardiologist, an infectious disease specialist, and orthopaedic surgeons, and accompanies Meyers to the Big Piney rural clinic.

A medical student from Seattle, Eric Herman, will be the first student to take the Sheridan third-year internal medicine clerkship. He will be in Sheridan for six weeks beginning Nov. 9, 1998. The clerkship coordinator there is Dr. Bret Barney. The student will spend time with patients at the Sheridan Veterans Affairs Medical Center and in the private practice offices of several doctors. He will have a chance to work with community emergency physicians, an endocrinologist, and neurologist/neurosurgeon. The student will also learn about patient care at a nursing home, a psychiatric unit, and a VA-run alcohol rehabilitation program.

Dr. Dawn DeWitt, UW assistant professor of medicine who with Dr. Douglas Paauw, UW associate professor of medicine, coordinates medical student teaching for her department, said, “We were impressed at the Jackson and Sheridan physicians’ commitment to teaching and to the WWAMI Program, and at the wide variety of training possiblities for medical students in their towns.”

Faculty from the medical school’s Seattle campus will visit the clinical sites to consult on physician training and provide other assistance.

The UW’s obstetrics and gynecology clerkship is also taught in Missoula, Mont.; Spokane, Wash.; Boise and Caldwell, Idaho; Anchorage, Alaska; Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma and many places in greater Seattle. The internal medicine clerkship is also taught in Wenatchee and Spokane, Wash.; Boise; and Missoula and Billings, Mont.; as well as in the Seattle area. The family medicine clerkship is taught at 24 towns and cities across the WWAMI region.