Two Wyoming towns, Powell and Buffalo, have been chosen as family practice training sites for third-year University of Washington (UW) medical students. Beginning in July of 1999, selected medical students will take their required, six-week clerkship in family medicine in these towns.
Family physician Dr. Mark Wurzel will coordinate the clerkship in Powell, and Dr. Larry Kirven will coordinate the Buffalo site. Other physicians and health professionals in both towns will assist in teaching medical students. Students will learn a primary-care approach to diagnosing and managing common medical problems while gaining an understanding of the role of
family physicians in the health-care system.
Kirven practices at the Family Medical Center and at Johnson County Health Care Center in Buffalo. Wurzel has his own practice and is on the medical staff at Powell Hospital.
The new sites are part of a regional medical education program that encourages future physicians to practice in rural areas by giving them first-hand medical experience in smaller towns. Called WWAMI for the initials of the participating states, the program educates students from Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho.
Wyoming joined the partnership last year. The University of Wyoming College of Health Sciences oversees the program in Wyoming, under the leadership of Dr. Sylvia Moore, assistant dean of the medical school. Medical students from Wyoming complete their first year of medical school classes at the University of Wyoming, their second year at the University of Washington in Seattle, then take clinical training in cities and towns across the five-state WWAMI region.
Wyoming is currently establishing its community clinical training component in various places around the state. Sites have already opened in Rock Springs to teach medical students about obstetrics and gynecology, and in Jackson for internal medicine training. A second internal medicine teaching site will open in Sheridan in November. In addition, physicians in Thermopolis will offer six months of community training to medical students through the WWAMI Rural Integrated Training Experience (WRITE).
Powell and Buffalo were chosen as family medicine clerkship sites because of the collegiality of their health-care professionals, the excellence of local hospitals, the strong relationships between the hospitals and their staff, the energy and enthusiasm of the physicians for teaching, and the welcoming atmosphere of the towns. Both towns have served as Rural/Underserved Opportunity Program sites for UW medical students seeking early exposure to community practice.
Twelve Wyoming towns were interested in serving as family medicine clerkship sites and completed applications. A 10-member selection committee, consisting of several deans and faculty affiliated with the University of Washington and representatives of the Wyoming Medical Society, reviewed the applications. A site visit team comprised of five members of the selection committee visited the four finalist sites, from which Powell and Buffalo were chosen. Wyoming WWAMI Director Sylvia Moore and Dr. Kathleen Ellsbury, associate professor of family medicine at the University of Washington, coordinated the selection committee.
The medical school has 24 family medicine clerkship sites in the other four WWAMI states. The same course requirements are met at all sites, yet their varied locations offer different perspectives on family practice.