Friday, April 06, 2018

U. of Wisconsin starts rural obstetrics/gynecology program

The chronic shortage of rural obstetrician/gynecologists is worsening in some areas, but the University of Wisconsin-Madison is trying to reverse the trend with a new rural residency program for OB-GYNs, the first in the nation. The program welcomed its first rural resident in June, Dr. Laura McDowell. The 27-year-old is training in Portage, and over the next four years will train in hospitals in other rural towns: Monroe, Watertown and Ripon.

The need for doctors like McDowell is great: nearly half of all U.S. counties lack an OB-GYN, and there will be a shortage of 6,000 to 8,000 by the year 2020, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

McDowell says she's familiar with the shortage of rural OB-GYNs because she grew up in rural Minnesota and graduated from medical school last year from the University of Minnesota-Duluth, where the school's curriculum was generally focused on rural medicine, Noah Vernau reports for the Portage Daily Register.

"McDowell, who spent the first year of her training in Madison, is the only doctor in the rural-residency program, but the school expects to add a second doctor soon and will have four residents on a rural track by 2021," Vernau reports.

The program took about three years to develop, using a $375,000 grant from the Wisconsin Rural Physicians Residency Assistance Program, funded by the state budget. RPRA has funded rural programs in Wisconsin medical schools in fields such as psychiatry and surgery, according to program coordinator Kimberly Bruksch-Meck.

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