As many of you know, Ruth Gottstein writes a column for The Upcountry News. Since her fall back in June of 2014, she has had several key people in county write guest columns for her, and the results have been tremendous. She is indebted to publisher Rick Torgerson, for allowing her to do this.
The January 2015 column is courtesy of our former County Health Officer, Bob Hartmann and a recent rural county intern, Caitlin Harris. This column just appeared in the Volume 14, Number 1 issue of the The Upcountry News. Rick has graciously allowed it to be reissued online. Enjoy! - Loraine Davis
Amador Serves as a Training Site for Future Doctors
By Dr. Robert Hartmann and Caitlin Harris
As many local physicians know all too well, California is facing a statewide shortage of doctors--particularly in rural communities. Six years ago, Sutter Amador Hospital (SAH) was approached to become a medical education training site for the UC Davis Rural PRIME program. SAH CEO Anne Platt and Dr. Bob Hartmann embraced the opportunity to train tomorrow’srural physicians. Platt’s enthusiasm made it possible for UC Davis students and more recently, Touro University students, to spend up to eight weeks or more training in Amador County. SAH sponsors the students during their stay in Jackson, and Dr. Hartmann serves as the medical education director. The patients embrace the students, often taking part in the recruitment process by asking “Are you going to take over when doc retires?” or “This one’s really good--can we keep her?”
Students have participated in community projects ranging from promoting immunization awareness to healthy eating campaigns. The students’ eyes light up with inspiration, as each day brings new wisdom by listening to patients and learning from an attending physician. For the core primary care rotation, students receive clinical education training from Dr. Thomas Bowhay, Dr. Richard Buss and Dr. Hartmann. During their time here, many other local physicians have enthusiastically volunteered to teach students. These include Dr. Lucy Miller and Dr. Philip Granchi of Sutter Diagnostic Imaging, Dr. David Stone of Sutter Amador Pediatrics, Dr. Don Van Fossan with Hospice of Amador and Calaveras County, the Sutter Amador Hospital Emergency physicians, Gregory Wright of Amador Physical Therapy and United Health Care. The local doctors really enjoy the students’ excitement and energy. In the students’ eyes, these physicians are truly living the dream. The students experience firsthand some of the unique challenges of rural health care in a variety of settings.
Providing early exposure to remote, less populated settings away from major academic medical centers is a key element to training future leaders in rural health care. With limited access to numerous specialists and the latest technology, the students learn to develop independence in medical decision making. Through firsthand experience, the students learn how to provide good care with limited resources. Long lasting genuine relationships between patients and physicians are still the standard of care in Amador County. Physicians often oversee the care of four generations in one family.
For the students, the Amador county primary care training is a high-light of their clinical education. Many of these students were raised in rural settings and all of them have decided to dedicate their careers to working in underserved areas. It has been said that medicine is not a career choice--it is a calling. For students who come to train in Amador, that calling has manifested itself as a dream of becoming a country doctor. Since the beauty of small town living has managed to lure generations to the Mother Lode, the local community is hoping to attract some of the students to make Amador their future home.
Dr. Robert Hartmann is the former Amador County Health Officer and currently maintains his general practice in Jackson. Caitlin Harris is a third year medical student from Touro University, College of Osteopathic Medicine in Vallejo, CA. She just completed a month long primary care rotation in Amador County.