For over 50 years third year medical students have been training with Lakeview Clinic physicians as part of their medical training through the Rural Physician Associate Program (RPAP); a clerkship program run through the University of Minnesota Medical School. This program gives students the opportunity to focus on primary care in rural communities. Currently, students are located as far north as Bemidji and as far south as Austin/Albert Lea.
Some early participating RPAP students were Dr. Donald Sommers and Dr. Scott Ellingson, who became long-time Lakeview Physicians and have since retired. Current Lakeview doctors that participated in the RPAP program include Dr. Leah Clark, Dr. Abigail Elliott, Dr. Jaimee McPadden, Dr. Tara McMichael, Dr. Rebecca Siffring and Dr. Lucas Labine. It is fun to hear about the positive experiences these providers had during their student rotations at Lakeview. Because of his time as a RPAP student, Dr. Labine discovered where he would eventually practice medicine. “I picked Waconia for my RPAP site due to its reputation, location, and opportunities- little did I know that I would love it so much I would want to come back!” he stated.
According to the University’s RPAP Program Office, 45 students have done medical clerkships at Lakeview Clinic over the years, beginning as early as 1974! Having all these amazing RPAP alumni demonstrates the success of the program reaching its intended goals. During this medical clerkship, students rotate through the various specialties such as OB/GYN, Pediatrics, General Surgery, and Internal Medicine at Lakeview. They are also provided with additional opportunities to learn about special areas of interest, spend time in our radiology department, and complete an ER rotation.
RPAP students finish their rotations at Lakeview Clinic having completed the Required Clinical Experiences (RCE) which is required of all medical students during their third year of medical school. Of the 250 to 300 U of M medical students from both the Twin Cities and Duluth campuses, 30 to 50 students choose to complete their clerkship through RPAP. Their reasons for choosing this program range from wanting the opportunity to have more patient interaction to wanting one on one mentorship with an established physician. Dr. Leah Clark “found Lakeview to be accommodating and expedient in facilitating [her special interest] in ultrasound guided musculoskeletal injections” during her time in the RPAP program.
All of this training takes place under the supervision of an established doctor known as a preceptor. Lakeview currently has three preceptors, Dr. Tara McMichael, Dr. Abby Elliot and Dr. Leah Clark, all of whom were RPAP students themselves! Dr. Todd Holcomb has also served as a preceptor. Physicians must be vetted prior to taking on the role of preceptor and need to become adjunct professors at the University of Minnesota in order to mentor students. We are grateful to have physicians willing to assume a critical role in the development of medical students. Lakeview preceptors help students develop clinical problem-solving skills and mentor future leaders in clinics, hospitals and our communities.
“Thank you for the tremendous work of providing excellent patient care, and your commitment to educate the next generation of physicians to serve our rural communities.”
-Dr. Kirby Clark, MD – Director, RPAP
A lot can change in 50 years, and while not all the communities we serve can still be considered rural, Lakeview does have clinics in rural communities and provides care for many patients from rural areas adjacent to the metro area. Lakeview Clinic is proud to be part of the Rural Physician Associate Program and its efforts to encourage students to practice primary care in rural communities. According to a study done by the University of Minnesota 41.2 % of RPAP students began their medical careers in rural clinics compared to 13.9% non-RPAP students. (U of M data from 1975-2017) RPAP students also entered Family Medicine and Primary Care at a much higher rate.
It is important that we continue to have Primary Care physicians available to residents of greater Minnesota. Rural clerkship programs like RPAP are only offered at approximately 20% of US medical schools. This makes both the program itself and physicians like those precepting at Lakeview Clinic an important part of future healthcare in our state.
You can learn more about the University of Minnesota Rural Physician Associate Program with the links below.