Published: Sept. 23, 2013

College of Human Medicine launches Northern Michigan health program

Contact(s): Jason Cody University Communications office: (517) 432-0924 cell: (734) 755-0210, Geri Kelley College of Human Medicine office: (616) 233-1678 cell: (616) 350-7976

MSU's College of Human Medicine announced Sept. 23 the launch of its Rural Community Health Program in Northern Michigan, the medical school’s newest of several rural physician education initiatives.

The new program will prepare future physicians with the skills to practice within evolving community-based rural health networks.

Three health systems – spanning Northern Michigan – are partnering with MSU as rural education sites for College of Human Medicine students, including Charlevoix Area Hospital, McLaren Northern Michigan and Alpena Regional Medical Center. Each site includes a rural hospital, the surrounding medical communities and the local public health department.

“The Rural Community Health Program builds upon the core strengths of our college’s near 50-year history of community-focused programs for underserved populations in Northern Michigan,” Dean Marsha Rappley said. “This program is exceptional in medical education because it transcends traditional health system boundaries.

“We are grateful for the collaborative spirit and unified vision of our partners at Alpena Regional Medical Center, Charlevoix Area Hospital and McLaren Northern Michigan. Together we will impact long-term rural care in our communities and beyond.”

Once selected for the Rural Community Health Program, MSU’s medical students will spend up to six months at an assigned site. There, students will learn clinical skills and also gain experience with the varied roles of a rural physician, from treating medical needs to providing leadership in public health and community health care. It is anticipated the program will eventually have up to 12 medical students at the rural education sites in Northern Michigan.

Andrea Wendling, a family physician in Northern Michigan and associate professor at the College of Human Medicine, is director of the Rural Community Health Program. To her, the program offers a unique opportunity for students to experience rural medicine, a focus not often found in medical school. She hopes this exposure leads students to consider the rewarding medical career path of rural medicine.

“We have wonderful health care providers and practices in place up here,” Wendling said. “We just need to attract future rurally minded physicians so that all communities can benefit. This program is a great place to start.”