Faculty voice:

Andrea Wendling: Changing the world

July 27, 2020

Andrea Wendling is the director of rural medicine in the College of Human Medicine. She was recently named the recipient of the National Rural Health Association’s 2020 Outstanding Educator Award. This piece is repurposed content from a YouTube video from the College of Human Medicine. For more information about this award and Wendling, visit the College of Human Medicine.

I’m Andrea Wendling, I'm director of rural medicine for Michigan State University's College of Human Medicine. I'm also a rural family doctor, and I’m excited to say that I was nominated for the National Rural Health Association's 2020 Rural Educator of the Year award.

Rural has always been part of who I am. I grew up in a small town on a Christmas tree farm in the thumb of Michigan — it's a centennial farm and my family still owns it today.

I went to undergrad and medical school at the University of Michigan, and I was one of those rare students who showed up on the first day saying ‘I want to be a rural doctor.’

At U of M, there certainly weren't very many of us, but I’ve spent my career trying to tip that balance and get the students who are interested in being real doctors into medical school and then really help them feel like they have a home there.

Now, I practice in a small town in northern Michigan called Boyne City, where I've been able to work now for almost 20 years. I work with my husband, who is also a rural family doctor in a practice in our town that's associated with a critical access hospital, which is also one of Michigan State University's rural training sites.

MSU started one of the pioneer rural training programs in the nation — the Rural Physician Program in the upper peninsula of Michigan. That program is now almost 50 years old.

Over the last 10 years, we have worked to triple the number of students involved in our rural programs at our college, consistently admitting students to our classes now in the same proportion that they're found in our state, and then training those students on not one but three rural campuses that really are not single sites, but are actually campus systems that span many rural counties in the state with the thought that, for these regions, we’ll hopefully be able to replicate that same regional impact that we've seen in our upper peninsula.

I am so fortunate to have this job that has allowed me to try to change the world in exactly the way that I want to change it.