Nearly two dozen students from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, including pharmacy, recently visited Rio Grande County in Southern Colorado for Rural Immersion Week. The experience is for health professions students who are interested in living and working in a rural area “I really enjoyed the Rural Immersion Week! We got to meet with local community leaders and learn what it was like to live in a rural community,” says third year student Amanda Howard, who represented the school along with Jhani Williams, Dario Martinez and Nicola Maude.
The students were split into groups and investigated what makes a rural community work through different non-clinical topics. The pharmacy students got the chance to tour several local businesses in the Alamosa, Monte Vista and Del Norte area, “We got to meet many people from the community and it became apparent that everyone who was involved in the community had more than one role and was very proud of the town. We learned about the dynamics of business and about some of the struggles small business owners face. Being in a small town you have to be resourceful and be able to make do with what you have,” explains second year student Jhani Williams.
One interesting business collaboration they learned about was between a couple breweries and a pig farm. The breweries send the farm their leftover malt for the pigs to eat, “Everyone seemed to work together on everything. The level of collaboration was very impressive,” says Howard.
While it was mostly a non-clinical experience, community leaders still shared with the students how healthcare works in their town, “We were able to tour the hospital and clinic and learned that they had doctors that would come down to visit certain days of the month to treat patients. I thought that was unique, the town does not have the demand or resources for a specialist to stay at the hospital, but they were able to work something out so the people would have some opportunities to see a specialist without driving to a bigger city,” Williams said.
Overall the students say they enjoyed the week and would recommend the experience. Howard grew up in a small town, so knows a lot about rural life already, but said she’s still glad she went, “This was a very refreshing week to hear about a different career path that isn't covered very often during our curriculum. It is easy to get caught up in becoming the most specialized/certified pharmacist in a very specific area of pharmacy however we learn that there are small towns that desperately need a pharmacist who is a "Jack of all trades”.”
The students will give a group presentation about their experience in the fall. The Monte Vista Journal also covered Rural Immersion Week.