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Wright State University's new rural medicine program

A doctor standing at the ready.

In Ohio, 81 of the 88 counties have at least one primary care shortage area, according to data from the Health Resources and Service Administration. These areas, called “health deserts,” occur twice as often in rural areas. A new program by Wright State University could help with this issue by training students to be rural primary care providers.

Starting in 2023, the newly accredited Rural Family Residence Program will begin at Wright State University. The goal of the program is to address the shortage of physicians and “health deserts” in rural Ohio counties.

Shortages of providers in these areas can threaten the lives and wellbeing of the community. Without providers, common illnesses like hypertension and diabetes and even maternal care worsen.

“What can happen is diseases can get untreated,” program director Dr. Carlos Menendez said. “So you see patients with hypertension, for example, that have strokes because their blood pressure isn’t treated properly.”

The program is a 1-2 training program. In other words, residents will spend a year working at Miami Valley Hospital in Montgomery County getting training in practicing medicine in an urban environment.

The following two years will be spent in various locations in Greenville treating rural patients.

Menendez said that on average, providers end up practicing relatively close to where they were trained. With the majority of medical training being done in urban areas, it’s no surprise that more providers are located in urban areas.

By attracting residents who want to practice in rural areas and teaching them how to do so with practical hands-on experience, the hope is that these residents will stay and practice in these areas.

“We are just really excited to help train new physicians in an area that’s of great need,” Menendez said.

Applications are currently open for three residents. The deadline to apply is January 15, 2023.

The program is funded by a $750,000 grant from the Health Resources and Service Administration.

Garrett is a WYSO intern and graduate of University of Dayton. He spent time covering the Dayton area with WDTN Channel 2 News after the 2019 Memorial Day Tornado outbreak. It was around this time that he began listening to NPR and fell in love with radio-based journalism. Garrett graduated from UD in May of 2021 with his Bachelor’s in Communications with a focus in journalism and graduated in May of 2022 with his Master’s. While not working at WYSO, Garrett is an avid reader, loves to play video games, and hanging out with his friends.