Bradford hosts score of medical students for look at rural practice

BRADFORD, Pa. — By the end of the academic year, 20 medical students from the University of Pittsburgh will have spent one of their clinical rotations in Bradford thanks to a five-year grant to introduce medical students to rural medicine.

The $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is administered by the Center for Rural Health Practice at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford.

Students in their third year of medical school spend a year exploring different kinds of medicine in a clinical setting, explained Alana Gilman, a third-year student currently studying in Bradford with Dr. Jill Owens.

Students throughout the country will experience the same specialties in their rotations, but most will be in the urban or suburban settings surrounding teaching hospitals, she said.

Gilman said she has looked forward to undertaking her family medicine rotation in a rural setting because she gets to see a more continuous patient-physician interaction than in an urban or suburban setting, where hospitals often employ special doctors, called hospitalists, who take over a patient’s care when they are in the hospital.

Gilman said this has been a unique opportunity for her to work with Owens and see a patient in the office, admitted to the hospital and after release. “It really gives that continuity-of-care perspective, which you don’t see a lot anymore,” she said. She will even be able to conduct a home visit.

Gilman cited other benefits to the rural rotation, such as having access to the same physician as a mentor for several weeks. During other rotations, she said, she is often supervised by different resident medical students, and each one must start over assessing her abilities. In Bradford, she will work with Owens each day, and will be able to learn more about conditions and symptoms each time she sees them instead of covering the same basic material.

“This is more like an old-style apprenticeship,” she said.

Lisa Chapman, coordinator of the pre-doctoral clerkships, said that students also appreciate getting to see the small business side of a medical practice.

In addition to working and studying, students have a bit of time to explore the area. Gilman, who grew up in a small town in Colorado, plans to check out nearby skiing. Other students, Chapman said, have also taken advantage of the region’s outdoor offerings, including fly-fishing, hiking and camping. They have also enjoyed visiting Niagara Falls and Toronto in Canada, Kinzua Bridge State Park and the Chautauqua Institution in New York.

Some medical students have also had a chance to give back to their host community by meeting with Pitt-Bradford undergraduate students interested in medical school.

The grant – and medical student rotations – will continue through 2015.

For more information on the pre-doctoral clerkship program, contact Chapman at or 814-362-7959.

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