Rural round-up: the proofing is in the practice

This month Rural round-up comes from the USA. David Schmitz, MD FAAFP, is Chief Rural Officer and Program Director of Rural Training Tracks, Family Medicine Residency of Idaho. Dave is also this month's featured family doctor. Find out more about Dave and his work in Idaho here.

The phrase “The proof is in the pudding” became increasingly popular in the United States during the 1950s while its origins can be traced abroad and to as early the 14th century. Here in the US family physicians find themselves in times of unprecedented political, technological and social change in the midst of healthcare reform.

Recent posts of the WONCA Working Party on Rural Practice discussion forum have considered the amount of time or “exposure” which results in students’ determination to be located in rural practice following completion of training. Perhaps we too need to ask a similar question regarding our own ability to be effective leaders and have the desired impact in shaping policy, education and these young learners’ careers.

Practicing for six years in a very rural area of Northern Idaho, I developed the passion for and an understanding of both the joys and the challenges of providing care to my patients and my community. As I write to you today I am in our nation’s capitol of Washington DC at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) working to craft policy which will benefit my patients back home.
Serving as the Chief Rural Officer and Program Director of Rural Training Tracks for the Family Medicine Residency of Idaho is a stretch from my rural roots of practice. Bridging the gaps between education, policy and practice is a challenge I must work hard to address. Recently, 34 US Senators signed a letter to the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), asking her to provide comprehensive details about the CMS rulemaking process and how rural health care concerns are addressed.

As the founding chair of the new Member Interest Group for Rural Health at AAFP, we will have our first meeting tomorrow ( October 23) to hear directly from rural practicing family physicians. Our leadership team must have the exposure and the connection to rural practice allowing those of us in education, research and advocacy to better “Rural Proof” the policies of our future. We must stay vigilant in our focus on rural patients and the physicians who care for them. As for the impact of good policy and its improvement of rural health and rural practice, the proof is in the pudding. 

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