A Rural Immersion Week for 14 students from the University of Colorado-Denver wrapped up activities this past Friday morning, June 20, at Lamar Community Building. The students, mostly in their early to mid 20’s, took a week-long tour of Lamar and other sites in Prowers County, getting a first-hand look at everyday life is like on the High Plains. The event was sponsored by Prowers Medical Center and allowed future medical practitioners some idea of what their lifestyles would be like, employed in a small-sized, rural community. After a Monday orientation seminar conducted by various community leaders, the students had both free and organized time to visit cultural, economic and environmental aspects of rural life and work.
At the end of their visit, separate teams presented their own overview of what they saw, heard, experienced and learned about the Lamar community and other parts of Prowers County. The students were diverse in their backgrounds, ranging from North Pole, Alaska to Boulder, Colorado to the eastern seaboard of Virginia; Accra, Ghana and Seoul, South Korea. The majority of their assessment was quite positive, noting almost the same living style as have long term residents…lack of restaurants and shopping alternatives, plus longer distances between communities than along the Front Range or other metro communities. They also recognized that many of the residents, in their professional lifestyles, are able to utilize their ingenuity to make up for material shortfalls.
The students were given some free time as well as scheduled visits, so some had a chance to fish at Two Buttes and John Martin Reservoir and attend a ranch BBQ as well as lend a hand at branding and castrating at the Emick Ranch. Visits also included Dragon Industries as well as Colorado Mills where they learned how local crops could generate a diversified number of products. Other locations visited included Temple Grain, the Lamar Welcome Center, Brew Unto Others and Farm Credit. The students also visited medically oriented facilities including the Southeast Health Group, PMC and High Plains Community Health Center and the pharmacies at Safeway and Walmart, as several students are pursuing careers in pharmacology. They were also concerned about their findings regarding the high poverty and obesity rate among the county youngsters, as well as one of the highest incidences of teen pregnancy in the state and lack of insurance coverage among a lot of residents. The community’s mental health facilities showed, according to their findings, excellent emergency response measures, but they also noted a lack of facilities for patient care including a lack of beds and delays moving patients out of emergency care conditions. They also noted a comparative lack of violent crimes in the community, measured against what is reported daily in metro areas.
The visit was an outgrowth of a visit paid to the University of Colorado campus by PMC Chief Executive Officer, Craig Loveless and former PMC board chairman, Candy Ruedeman. Some scholarship funding is developing for those students, early in their academic career, who commit to spend several years in rural hospitals, once they’ve completed their degree in medicine. The rural orientation can help to diminish whatever culture shock might be experienced with a move from a metro to a rural lifestyle.
By Russ Baldwin
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