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Medical Student’s Experience at a Community Health Center

Friday, February 14, 2020   (0 Comments)
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   Written By: Jenny Wu, Medical Student at A.T. Still University, Class of 2021


 My first away rotation of third year of medical school was a family medicine rotation in Tillamook, Oregon. I did not know what to expect prior to starting the rotation, and was not aware that it was actually considered a rural rotation for medical students from other schools. Needless to say, as someone who grew up in Los Angeles, it was quite an experience driving through open fields with barns and farm animals on the way to clinic.



 While at the Tillamook Community Health Center (CHC), I appreciated how all the providers, including the physicians, PAs, nurse practitioners, behavioral health specialists, registered dieticians, nurses, domestic abuse advocates, and medical assistants, all worked in one large room. I found this to be a very effective model as all the providers were aware of the medical, behavioral, and social concerns of their patients, and were able to consult each other when complicated cases came up. For example, there was one case in which the behavioral health specialists suspected a 16-year-old female patient was being physically abused by her father. 

The providers consulted each other and decided that the most appropriate plan at that moment was to equip the patient with the means to protect herself, including providing her with a cellphone so that she could use if she felt unsafe. 

I also observed how in a tight-knit community like Tillamook, some of the CHC employees and providers had children that attended the same school as the patients that came to clinic. In the case of this 16-year-old female, it was interesting to listen to the providers and employees discuss how they could use resources in the community, such as the teachers and coaches at the local high school to keep an eye on the patient (of course, without violating HIPAA!). It was a unique experience for me to observe this interaction, and it made me appreciate working in a setting in which community members looked out for one another.



While I was there, I got to participate in a new program started by the registered dietician (RD) that focused on nutrition counseling for patients with diabetes. It was a 6-week program in which patients who were interested met on Thursday nights in the home-economics classroom at the local college campus. Fresh colorful produce, such as kale, tomatoes, cucumbers, beets, and carrots were donated by the local farmers. In the   2-hour session, the RD provided nutrition counseling about the “topic for the week,” including how to cook with different grains, portion sizes, and reading food labels. Three recipes were chosen for each session, and all the participants cooked and enjoyed the meals together. It was a very special experience!

 As a future health care provider, it was very encouraging for me to see the impact of spending time, not only providing diet counseling, but actually being in the kitchen cooking healthy meals with patients. At the end of each session, each patient was provided with a bag full of fresh produce, as well as vouchers to purchase produce at the local market. One patient shared that she had never bought kale because she was unsure how to prepare it. She could not wait to go home and prepare it for her family!   

 I had a great experience in the clinic, and also enjoyed my time along the Oregon Coast. I booked an Airbnb in Lincoln City, a beach town about an hour away from Tillamook. I had the opportunity to go hiking a few weekends and I was fortunate enough to enjoy a beautiful view of the ocean. The beach was a short walk from my Airbnb, so I was able to enjoy time there as well.




While I was there in August, Tillamook had its county fair. It was the talk of the town! The children that came to clinic talked excitedly about their favorite rides, and their favorite farm animals. One of the patients told me I had to go and see what the fair is most known for – the Pig-n-Ford Race (picture people racing in Ford Model T’s with one hand gripping a slippery, 20-lb pig). After witnessing this event first-hand, I can confirm that it is indeed the “most red-neck thing” I have ever seen (tag line of the event)!



I had such a great experience at the Tillamook CHC, as well as out in the community. I would highly recommend that students experience a rural medicine rotation. The tight-knit community and the cooking class for diabetic patients were just some of the highlights of this rotation.

If anyone is interested in doing a family medicine rotation in Tillamook, and would enjoy a month along the beautiful Oregon Coast, please feel free to contact me at jennywu15@gmail.com.





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