A Positive Impact
U of I WWAMI student wants to make a positive impact in rural communities
Matthew Ward has always loved small towns after growing up in Mountain Home. So when he heard about the Rural/Underserved Opportunities Program (RUOP) and the Targeted Rural Underserved Track through the University of Idaho’s WWAMI Medical Education Program, Idaho’s medical school, he was in.
“If I could stay in Idaho, it’s something specific to rural Idaho and I thought that’s amazing,” he said. “This program is specifically for what I envisioned myself doing as a doctor.”
Ward completed his undergraduate study in exercise physiology at Brigham Young University - Idaho and considered physical therapy and dentistry before deciding on medicine.
“I really didn’t ever go to the doctor growing up. I didn’t have a lot of experience going to the doctor and that setting,” he said. “I did a lot of my shadowing in a small-town setting through RUOP. It was just really cool to see those physicians. They know their patients.”
When Ward arrived in Jerome for his RUOP, he was originally thinking about finding a project he could work into local schools.
However, in talking with the director of the recreation district, Ward learned there was a large Hispanic population in Jerome, but the local rec center didn’t offer classes in Spanish.
“We started talking about nutrition. That’s how we developed the idea of teaching nutrition classes that are based on reliable information — and let’s teach them in English and Spanish,” Ward said.
Ward’s program uses the MyPlate nutrition curriculum developed by the USDA. Volunteer medical providers in Jerome are teaching the classes through the recreation district.
In April, Ward will return to check-in on the progress of the classes.
“That’s the idea, to build relationships in this community and hope that has a positive impact,” he said.
After experiencing the Rural/Underserved Opportunities program, Ward said he feels more confident in his choice to practice in rural areas.
“The biggest thing I’ve gained is understanding that needs are slightly different in rural communities as opposed to urban communities. The scope of practice is larger in rural places,” he said.
WWAMI is a partnership between the University of Washington School of Medicine and five Western states — Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. In Idaho, 40 medical students complete their first and second year of medical training on the Palouse. The students then have the opportunity to complete their Clinical Phase and Explore & Focus Phase of medical education in Idaho, Seattle or across the five-state WWAMI region.
The Rural/Underserved Opportunities Program (RUOP) is a four-week immersion experience in community medicine for students in between year one and two of medical school. The students live in underserved rural or urban communities during a four-week rotation, working with local physicians. The Target Rural Underserved Track (TRUST) builds on this experience with student completing community health projects within their RUOP communities.
Published in March 2018
Article by Tess Fox, University Communications & Marketing