Clinic Now Helping Train Rural Doctors


The Payson medical community seems to be getting a reputation for helping future health care professionals learn about serving in rural areas.

Recently the Payson Christian Clinic hosted 44 medical students from around the country to teach them about rural medicine. Part of a month-long class at Loma Linda University Medical Center, the students traveled from California to learn about medicine apart from tertiary care centers.

Dr. Alan Michels, one of the Rim Country physicians working at the Payson Christian Clinic, indicated there was a lot of enthusiasm from the students. “Many questions were asked about health care for the uninsured and about the volunteer staff. They wanted to know the details about providing Whole Person Care to our community.”

At the debriefing, many students said that coming to Payson was the highlight of their month-long experience:

One student commented, “I have never been in a rural area. There is a sense of community that is new to me.”

Another marveled that when the group asked for overnight accommodations, residents offered space for more than the 44 students.

“I wondered how strangers could take me home,” said the student, “and the next morning, I wondered how I was going to say goodbye.”

One burly medical student took pictures of the chocolates on his pillow to share with everyone.

These future medical professionals now have a rural medicine exposure that will carry through their training.

Michels said the generosity of the community made the program a success. Gerardo Moceri opened his restaurant for Sunday morning breakfast. Mountain Bible graciously provided the space for a potluck. Additional help came from Amity Justice and the Eastern Arizona Area Health Education Center.

This summer two Arizona medical students are getting a taste of rural health care services through a University of Arizona College of Medicine program — Rural Health Professions Program.

Amalia Pineres, M.D., mentored Katherine Nielsen from June 10 to July 12.

Nielsen is attending the UA College of Medicine – Tucson.

Pineres has been a RHPP preceptor since 1999 and also is a clinical assistant professor with the UA College of Medicine – Tucson.

David Cluff, D.O., and James Schouten, M.D., both in family medicine, are mentoring Jeffrey Robertson through Aug. 2. Robertson is attending the UA College of Medicine – Tucson. Cluff and Schouten first served as RHPP preceptors in 2004.

The program is designed to help alleviate the shortages of physicians in rural areas, especially critical as older physicians retire and health care coverage expands under the Affordable Care Act.

The physicians volunteer for four to six weeks to mentor medical students from the UA College of Medicine – Tucson and UA College of Medicine – Phoenix. Working side-by-side with the students, the physicians demonstrate the multiple roles they play, the personal connections with patients and the sense of community that attracted them to rural practice, and encourage the medical students to choose rural practices.

RHPP was established in 1997 by the Legislature to encourage medical school graduates to practice medicine in rural communities. RHPP physicians volunteer to mentor UA medical students between their first and second years of medical school.

Several of the physicians are UA College of Medicine graduates who participated in RHPP as medical students and now are serving as RHPP mentors to the next generation of rural physicians.

The medical students work with the physicians at their practice sites and reside in their communities for four to six weeks between the end of May and early August. Students are matched with preceptors based on specialty interest and community preference.

Physician specialties include family practice, pediatrics, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology and surgery.

The students continue to work with their preceptors over the course of their three remaining years of medical training.


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