More than a dozen students from the University of Arizona – Phoenix College of Medicine will take a two-year look at the needs of the community in the Tonto Basin. The hope of the study is to provide significant benefits to the people who live there.
The 14 medical students are in Rim Country as part of a joint effort between the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix and the Eastern Arizona Health Education Center. By completing this two-year study, they produce their master’s-level community projects.
This is the second two-year group of medical students working in Rim Country. The first group ended their two-year stint a few months ago, focusing mainly on Payson.
This next group has already started collecting information about the Tonto Basin community, focusing on community health issues. Students first conduct assessments to determine the need for things like medical clinics, counseling services, parks, and other health and healthy lifestyle issues.
Payson physician Dr. Judith Hunt is site director for the Rim Country program at the University of Arizona.
It helps to direct the concentration and formation of the group. Hunt has practiced medicine and trained medical students and residents in Payson for almost 25 years.
“These students of medical professionals are the best and the brightest. They are our future. Sharing them and contributing to our community is an invaluable gift. Hopefully, they will take Rim Country into account when choosing their health professional position. While doing this type of study can produce many benefits for the community over time, when it comes to securing government grants and providing higher caliber health care services, students seem to pretty excited, ”Hunt said.
“My patients are my friends and my neighbors,” Hunt said.
“The children I care for in my practice are children I coached on the swim team and I was there when many of these patients were born. Students immediately notice this relationship we have with our patients. It is not often in Phoenix for a doctor to leave their clinic and meet their patient outside of the office. Here we meet our patients in grocery stores, in parks, on the sports field and at church, ”she said.
Each year, Hunt trains approximately 15 medical professional students and residents from various locations across the country, in addition to those at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix. She has worked with students from the University of Tennessee, Marquette University and the University of Southern California.
“Rural medicine is a specialty in itself,” Hunt said. “It allows students to start seeing each other in rural areas. The country has a great challenge in finding doctors for rural areas and until a student has lived in a rural community and experienced rural medicine, it will be difficult for a single lecture to paint a picture of what this is. it really is to be a country doctor.
Not all of the students Hunt works with are on a two-year rotation.
To address the physician shortage and increase the number of graduates practicing in rural settings, the University of Arizona College of Medicine at Phoenix has launched a Certificate of Distinction in Rural Health (COD) program. Hunt is a professor in the college’s rural health program and trains many of the students who participate in this COD.
Students complete up to six months of internship in the Navajo, Prescott, Payson or Yuma Nation. COD students complete a four-week summer rural preclinical experience between their first and second year and a 15-week rural internship in their third year.
Following their first public interview at Tonto Basin, one of the students told Dr Hunt: “I am inspired by the people we have spoken to about Tonto Basin, by the faculty of the program and by the students affected. to our group. I am also incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this program and to learn more about Tonto Basin. The sense of community, resilience and perseverance are evident, as well as a sense of pride in the region. I also sense a theme of hope for positive change in the Tonto Basin with the awarding of the Tonto Creek Bridge Grant. I look forward to visiting the community and hope to be part of the positive change for the community over the next two years.
Randy Roberson contributed to this story.