Calling All Docs
More than one-third of Wisconsin’s 72 counties do not have an ob-gyn physician.
Through the development of its Rural Residency Program, UW–Madison’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology is working to build up this workforce, says Jody Silva, program manager. The program, which is beginning its second year, is the nation’s first to offer specific resident training for rural women’s health.
The shortage, as documented in a 2014 report from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, is the result of several factors, such as rural hospitals closing obstetrics units and the number of retiring physicians outpacing the number of new physicians.
“Ultimately, what that means is a lot of rural women are having to drive really long distances just to seek [obstetric] care,” Silva says.
The department’s Rural Residency Program recruits residents with a commitment to rural communities and helps them gain the confidence they need to work in settings that typically do not have the same resources as urban and academic health centers.
The program offers a four-year training track and accepts one resident per year, with that resident spending about 20 percent of his or her time practicing in rural Wisconsin. Its inaugural resident, Laura McDowell MDx’21, was one of more than 100 applicants. She says her first year in the program has given her a realistic idea of what to expect while also affirming that she wants to work in a rural community.
“I feel really blessed and humbled to be the first one,” McDowell says. “I couldn’t have asked for a better residency match.”
Published in the Fall 2018 issue