GREEN BAY, Wisc. (WFRV) – Fourth year medical student Clayton Skogman is learning to practice medicine with invaluable hands-on training right alongside an experienced physician at Aurora BayCare Medical Center in Green Bay.

“They’re seeing patients right alongside the physician,” explained Dr. Michael Medich, director of medical education at Aurora BayCare. “They’re doing surgery with the surgeons… actually standing across from the surgeon helping out with the surgeries, so it’s a lot of hands-on experience.”

Skogman is part of the WARM program, Wisconsin Academy of Rural Medicine; a partnership created to help fill the healthcare gaps in the state’s more rural areas.

“Around 30 percent of Wisconsin’s population lives in rural areas,” Skogman explained. As of  now only 13 percent of Wisconsin physicians practice in rural areas. So, there’s a bit of a disparity there.”

Dr. Trevor Cooper is still getting used to that “Dr.” title just days after graduating from medical school.

“It’s gonna take some getting used to,” he said.

“While being called ‘doctor’ may be a novel experience for Cooper, his duties as an obstetrician will be nothing new.

“I’ve delivered, I think, over 30 babies by now,” Cooper recalled.  “Which is something not all medical students get to do.”

However, unlike “all medical students,” Cooper went through the WARM program. As did the new Dr. Lianna Mack, a small town girl herself from Merrimac, Wisconsin. 

Mack says her background gives her both an understanding of challenges facing rural healthcare…

“There are lots of barriers to rural patients,” Mack explained, “less physicians, lack of transportation to get to clinics and hospitals.”

…as well as an appreciation for the benefits of a more low-key lifestyle

“I loved living in a rural community most of my life,” Mack said. “I see myself as someone who would do well going back to a rural community and providing that access for patients.”

Which, Dr. Medich says, is exactly the idea behind this collaboration, now in existence for more than a decade.

“The whole purpose is to get students who have a high propensity to practice in rural areas,” Medich said.

Students who enroll in the WARM program upon entering the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine spend their first year and a half at medical school in Madison.  Then they are assigned to one of three WARM sites across the state for two and a half years of hands-on training in a more rural setting.  WARM campuses across the state are at  Aurora BayCare in Green Bay, Marshfield Clinic Health System in Marshfield and Gundersen Health System in La Crosse.  After graduating from the WARM program/medical school, students go on to pursue a residency where they will focus on their chosen specialty field in medicine, for an additional three to five years or more depending on their specialty.

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