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Addressing a shortage of physicians in rural Wisconsin

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WAOW) -- A new study out of Michigan notes a 15-year decrease in medical students from rural areas.

That study showed less than five percent of incoming medical students have a rural background.

"Coming from a rural community is not a detriment, it's an asset," said Katie Reimer, M.D. She grew up in Eagle River and now she practices medicine at Marshfield Clinic.

"The data has very clearly shown that students who are from rural communities... who have that background and connection to rural Wisconsin are significantly more likely to actually return."

Katie Reimer, M.D.

Doctor Reimer is Marshfield Clinic's Assistant Director of the Wisconsin Academy of Rural Medicine. "It helps foster those interests that people have in rural medicine," she said. "So that we can ultimately address the workforce shortage that we have in rural Wisconsin. "

A graduate of the program herself, Reimer has seen the impact first-hand. "I still see patients as a primary care physician that are up to four hours away, in northern Wisconsin, up to the U.P. of Michigan."

In Wausau, the Medical College of Wisconsin's Central Wisconsin campus aims to bridge the same gap.

"In order to get those numbers up, you need to make a very conscious effort," said Dean Lisa Dodson, M.D. "So, we are specifically seeking out applicants who come from rural backgrounds."

The school's Wausau campus allows students to learn in Rhinelander, Antigo, Tomahawk, and other towns that bring in rural residents.

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Tom Lally

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