WWAMI Students complete 4-week rotations in rural Alaska

by Alaska WWAMI  |   

Courtney Ibabao setting up camp in the picturesque Nome region.
Courtney Ibabao setting up camp in the picturesque Nome region. Photo courtesy of Courtney Ibabao.

Many students in the WWAMI School of Medicine spent their summers living in rural or urban underserved communities throughout Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho working side-by-side with local physicians providing health care to underserved populations. Rural Underserved Opportunities Program (R/UOP) is a four-week, elective immersion experience in community medicine for students between their first and second years of medical school.

Alex Witt is a Washington WWAMI student who completed his 4-week RUOP rotation in Juneau, Alaska at Valley Medical Care where he learned more about primary care while being close to family members in the area. Witt shared that this experience provided him with the opportunity to apply his medical education in a real-world setting. “RUOP is a great way to plunge into primary care in a rural setting. In RUOP you are in the clinic every day, so you get a view of how the system works in a way that you can't in lecture," he said.

Courtney Ibabao, an Alaska WWAMI student, completed her 4-week RUOP rotation in Nome, Alaska at the Norton Sound Health Corporation. Ibabao shared that the most impactful lesson learned from her RUOP experience has been, "Watching and learning how the Norton Sound Health Corporation (NSHC) system operates within the Bering Sea region. NSHC is a tribal-owned hospital and oversees 20 tribes within 15 villages. They have created an efficient system to provide care to the most rural villages."

These students' immersive experiences practicing rural healthcare could not be done without the preceptors at sites around Alaska who are helping guide this next generation of physicians and advancing their medical knowledge all while creating a tight-knit environment for WWAMI students to learn and practice medicine.