UNE Students share their Experiences on the third and final day of the 2018 DownEast Rural Health Immersion

June 6th, 2018 by healthinnovation
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Before returning to Portland the students spend the morning at Schoodic Point of Acadia National Park. Off in the distance is Cadillac Mountain.

Ten UNE health professions students recently participated in a weeklong rural health immersion to Washington County in Maine.  The immersion experience is a part of a pipeline program with Maine’s Area Health Education Center (AHEC) program and UNE’s Center for Excellence in Health Innovation (CEHI) to address healthcare provider shortages in rural Maine.  This is the sixth immersion experience that the Maine AHEC and CEHI have provided for UNE students but the first time that a group has traveled to the DownEast area.  In March a group of 10 students traveled to Piscataquis County; last Fall a group of 10 students traveled to Oxford County and Carroll County in New Hampshire for a long weekend immersion; in May of 2017 a group of 13 medical, pharmacy, dental, and nursing students traveled to Maine’s midcoast region of Knox and Waldo Counties for a weeklong immersion; in March of 2017 medical and nursing students participated in a weeklong immersion in Franklin County; and in May of 2016 a group of 15 medical, pharmacy, and dental students participated in a weeklong immersion in Aroostook County.  Throughout the immersion the students are purposefully split into interprofessional teams so that they can learn the roles and how to communicate effectively with other disciplines in order to learn the skills necessary to provide high quality team-based care and improve patient outcomes.  The students experienced a variety of clinical, community, and population health activities in rural and underserved communities in Washington County, including Calais, Eastport, Lubec, Campobello, and Machias.   Below are reflections from one team after the third day of the trip on Friday, May 25, 2018.

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The students pose with the staff at Eastport Health Care, who warmly embraced the group of students.

Sammuel Stratton, second year osteopathic medicine student

Could I do what Ben Okafor, PharmD, has done? It takes a special kind of person to move halfway around the world and risk everything to start a business in a place seemingly opposite from everything you know and against current industry trends. Ben is originally from Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country. He came to Washington County, one of Maine’s least populous counties, to establish Eastport Family Pharmacy in Eastport, a community of approximately 1,300 year-round residents. At a time when most pharmacies are owned by one of a few mega-corporations, Eastport Family Pharmacy is independently owned and operated by Ben. Despite the superficial differences with the commiunity, Ben found a deeper connection. In Eastport, as in Ben’s Nigerian culture, family and community are everything. Ben saw a need and an opportunity in Eastport. He left the security of a salaried pharmacist’s position and cashed out his 401K retirement funds to take a risk on establishing Eastport Family Pharmacy and he never looked back. Because of his steadfast commitment to his community, Ben and his pharmacy have been embraced by the people of Eastport and have found success. Would I be able to find the courage to risk everything like Ben has in order to follow a dream? Reflecting on Ben’s inspiring story I am more likely to say “yes” when the opportunity is right. I am more likely to risk it all for an opportunity to follow a dream.

An hour-long meeting with the staff at the Eastport community health center was not the place I was expecting to be rethinking my life’s plans. Coming in and out of an engaging and deep discussion at Eastport Health Care I found my mind racing: how could I convince my wife to consider moving down east to Eastport? what am I thinking—I still have at least six more years between school and training? when would be a good time to at least have my wife and son visit Eastport? Hadn’t I already convinced myself that I wanted to live someplace warm in the future? It is the sign of a special kind of place that gets you consider turning your life upside down to be part of the magic that is happening there. Following the community circle at Eastport Health Care, my one word is: “inspired.”

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The students met with Ben Okafor, PharmD, independent owner of Eastport Family Pharmacy.

During the DownEast rural health immersion, the days were long and packed with meetings but the energy levels and spirits were high. From one day to the next the meetings and the discussions were continually deeper and richer. People were genuine and generous. The connections made us feel like they were with people you have known since forever and the friendships feel lifelong. After only four days how is it that one can feel like it has been always and will be forever? The answer is in the openness of the communities to embrace us during our rural health immersion and in the openness of the students who let themselves be changed by the experience. A four-day period is short; it is approximately one three-hundred-sixty-fifth of a four-year medical education, or in other words it is almost no time at all. But this relatively insignificant amount of time will hold tremendous significance for me throughout the remainder of my medical education, training, and into my practice. There is real value in connecting with people on an individual level. Listening to understand not only demonstrates respect for the other individual but also makes it more likely that you learn something from the interaction.

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Before having lobster rolls for lunch the students toured Quoddy Bay Lobster in Eastport.

 

Grace Kim, third year pharmacy student

Each experience during the DownEast rural health immersion was filled with a tremendous amount of indescribable emotions that I have never felt before in my life. It was a mixture of joy, grief, regrets, enlightenment, and courage all together. But these words alone cannot truly describe several heartaches, and excitement through this trip. It was heartwarming to be so welcomed everywhere we visited, and I’m leaving feeling full of knowledge with empowerment over just a few days spent in Washington County. Then I started having few lingering thoughts in my mind. What would I have done if I were in their situation? Will I be able to provide the same health care with equal amount of passion and unlimited love towards the community? How would I be able to return my services and knowledge to the community? And would I even be adequate enough of a pharmacist in the end to even their community?

The answers were found in several different visits of health care sites in Eastport Community. We first visited Eastport Family Pharmacy owned by Dr. Benjamin Okafor, who showed how grateful and privileged he was to give back something for the Eastport community. It was shocking to listen to him speak about the services that he provides for his patients, regardless of some burdens that he might go through to provide those services to them. He was a true passion and dedication to his profession, and portrayed a love to his “own home.” All the community needed was a single heart of dedication to create innovation in the form of an independent family pharmacy. It was a true courage that we all saw through the visit to his pharmacy, and it re-inspired so much neglected insightfulness that health care professional students often forget through our busy schedules. It was a moment of enlightenment and recognition at the same time to reframe why we decided to pursue health care careers.

 

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Students tour Raye’s Mustard in Eastport with Kevin and Karen Raye.

Then, after a short walk from the pharmacy, we visited Eastport Health Care Center. With warm welcome, the visit to Eastport Health Care Center started with a brief introduction, and taking a moment of silence. The shift in dynamics and the mood in that very moment in the room brought core reason, and empowerment. It implanted a meaning of what true health care needs to be. Everyone was able to engage and to form immediate bond to as of who we are, and what we are responsible as of future health professionals. Then, after listening to a poem written by John O-Donohue, “What Dreams Did I Create Last Night?”, it consolidated every little piece of the trip together.  As health care professional students, we get trained to be precise, accurate, and knowledgeable at all times, and to provide the optimal health care to the patient, this is true. We do receive education on science, and information that will be necessary in practice. But there is so much more to providing quality healthcare than just the basic sciences. And those simple things often slip or get pushed aside as we move from one block to the next. The love and adequate attention to each patient that was portrayed by EHC will not only create special bonds with patients, but also accelerate the rate of changes in health care society in better way. The approach may be different in each health professions, but holistically, we all share the same goal-  true patient centered care with collaborative teamwork. With constant exposure and awareness, which was emphasized throughout our rural health immersion, then better future and health care services will be provided to every single patient.

Answers were always there. Lingering thoughts that I had been having the first two years of my education were suddenly cleared out once I realize that it only needed one little change in mindset: That it is my passion, and everywhere I go will be my community regardless of geographical areas. That small change of thought brought courage, and passion, and I am sure it did for all other students that participated in this trip as well.

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The students met with a panel of community guests in Eastport to get a better sense of what its like to live in a rural community.

Christina Renodin, second year osteopathic medicine student

As a future health care provider, cultural competency and patient sensitivity is a necessity. Throughout our exploration of Washington County, our group of interprofessional students discussed this topic often. I appreciated the continued conversation we engaged in as developing cultural competency is a dynamic process that occurs along a continuum. Having been exposed to many aspects of rural health care including a local critical access hospital, multiple federally qualified health centers, dental offices, and a privately-owned pharmacy within rural areas, these experiences allows us to broaden our own understanding of the needs of diverse populations encountered in rural areas. This rural health immersion helped us to develop how we, as future health care professionals, may respect and appropriately respond to diverse populations. This theme continued in our visit to the Eastpoint Health Care where we spoke with staff about how they strive to meet the needs of their patients with creative solutions. This was a commonality we met through our trip, how rural health care providers wear many hats both in their health care field and as an engaged community member.

One of the most rewarding experiences of our rural health immersion was engaging in conversation with local community members of Eastport, ME. Here we spoke with a legislature, a business owner, a police officer and port authority director, as well as individuals who moved to Eastport later in life. Much of our conversation was about the needs of the community and how providers who decide to work in a small community, such as Eastport, may address those needs. This meeting was enlightening as we had spent a majority of our immersion meeting with health care providers. Our students connected with the community during this meeting because we were able to hear real life adversity faced within the community. We discussed how the port authority was working to increase business through the port, the community’s limited access to health care, as well as the high cost of health care and health insurance. The most compelling element conveyed to our students was the true sense of community within Eastport and how hardworking the coastal town was.

Our rural health immersion in Washington County concluded with a reflection on our immersion and with a visit to Schoodic Point. It was breathtaking to see hightide and watch the changing of the tides. This capstone moment gave us one last chance to connect as a group and appreciate all the beauty and wonder rural Maine has to offer.

Cody Hutchins, third year pharmacy student

Being raised in a rural area during a time where my family and I had to jump from town to town every year was all the experience I needed to know exactly what a move to Washington County would consist of, or so I thought. Moving to this place where there are more lobster traps than people, I thought would mean moving to another sprawling community that provides no chance of making connection. Here my Bostonian shoes stand before a creaking dock in Eastport, the most eastern corner of the United States, as a cool ocean breeze runs down my spine; it gives me the sense that nine months of cold weather and winter driving in this foreign place will only add to the time I will have to myself and myself alone.

It’s Day 3 of the DownEast rural health immersion. It has only been a couple hours since the sun crept over the blue edge of the Earth and chased off the morning mist over the harbor, and I am having an experience that is shifting my perception of what it means to live in a rural community. Our interprofessional team of students hop out of the UNE commercial van and walk through the front door of Eastport’s only pharmacy. My first impression is that the single aisle of medication really fails at masking the identity of the tiny laundromat that the pharmacy was repurposed from, but the trusting smile behind the counter quickly and successfully completes the illusion. The smile belongs to the pharmacist Ben Okafor, PharmD. Ben is from Africa and seemingly as out of place as my shiny shoes on that work dock or this aisle of medication in this used-to-be laundromat. Ben welcomes us with his charisma and shares with us his core values. He explains to us that if your business works hard for the community the community will work hard for your business. Ben drives a great distance to hand deliver prescriptions to people in their homes and in return people from great distance come to Ben entrusting him with their health.

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The students enjoyed having breakfast at Karen’s Diner in Calais each morning.

Witnessing how the small community of Eastport has sought out and taken to Ben makes me believe that finding friends and belonging is just part of Washington County’s allure. It seems that the cold does not isolate people here, it huddles people together. Ben’s story changes my fear of being lost to Washington County to a sense of hope in finding a true tight knit community. I leave this experience and Washington County with a new appreciation for rural communities and their capacity of giving oneself belonging. Maybe my feet will look less out of place in front of that creaky dock when I return with my Bean boots.

UNE Students share their Experiences on the second day of the 2018 DownEast Rural Health Immersion

June 1st, 2018 by healthinnovation

Ten UNE health professions students recently participated in a weeklong rural health immersion to Washington County in Maine.  The immersion experience is a part of a pipeline program with Maine’s Area Health Education Center (AHEC) program and UNE’s Center for Excellence in Health Innovation (CEHI) to address healthcare provider shortages in rural Maine.  This is the sixth immersion experience that the Maine AHEC and CEHI have provided for UNE students but the first time that a group has traveled to the DownEast area.  In March a group of 10 students traveled to Piscataquis County; last Fall a group of 10 students traveled to Oxford County and Carroll County in New Hampshire for a long weekend immersion; in May of 2017 a group of 13 medical, pharmacy, dental, and nursing students traveled to Maine’s midcoast region of Knox and Waldo Counties for a weeklong immersion; in March of 2017 medical and nursing students participated in a weeklong immersion in Franklin County; and in May of 2016 a group of 15 medical, pharmacy, and dental students participated in a weeklong immersion in Aroostook County.  Throughout the immersion the students are purposefully split into interprofessional teams so that they can learn the roles and how to communicate effectively with other disciplines in order to learn the skills necessary to provide high quality team-based care and improve patient outcomes.  The students experienced a variety of clinical, community, and population health activities in rural and underserved communities in Washington County, including Calais, Eastport, Lubec, Campobello, and Machias.   Below are reflections from one team after the second day of the trip on Thursday, May 24, 2018.

 

Amanda Follensbee, first year social work student

Spending the morning at the Calais High School and visiting the onsite health center and school nurse I instantly felt the sense of hardship and adversities that the community faces with the minimal organizations that they have. Yet, this did not seem to stop the small-town community from persevering and strengthening the resources they have by “double dipping”. Utilizing the school nurse as also a place for the health center it became evident how resourceful and strategic the people of Calais were.

Similarly, speaking with the students about higher education at the high school I felt the same sense of hardship coming from them in the sense that a few of them felt stuck in the small town they grew up in. These students expressed a responsibility to the community to stay where they are and help where help is needed. I related to this feeling of responsibility for the community when I was in high school; nearly every teacher told me to “Come back to Vermont and work”. I didn’t venture far for my undergraduate education and I did feel the need of the community in Vermont for social workers. But when I returned to school to pursue my Masters of Social Work, I wanted to broaden my horizons and therefore attended school at UNE in Maine. Through that, as well as through the DownEast rural health immersion, I learned that the need for social workers and health professions as a whole are needed in almost every community.

During our time at the Lubec Regional Medical Center I felt a strong message of support and community; the term “People place” came up often during our discussion with the staff and faculty at the facility. The rural health immersion taught me the importance of a strong community and pulling resources together in order to provide for the need of the community. Our visit to Lubec and Campobello strengthened the idea that we’re all in this together.  I learned that it’s much better to utilize what the community already has and strengthen those resources, rather than wishing for more or better, or for things that are unattainable.

 

Joelene Nguyen, third year pharmacy student

The third day of our Maine Adventure continued to surprise me with more motivational and inspiring works from the healthcare providers in Washington County.

We visited Calais Highschool and actually had a chance to tell our story and inspire other students. Talking to the current high school students really allowed me to reflect on my experience and journey as a future healthcare provider. The students were shy and appeared unresponsive in the beginning; however, some of the head nodding at the end showed that they were listening. After the presentation, I thought about how I acted when I was in their seats back then as a high school student.  I could see myself being shy about asking questions, and sometimes distracted whenever there was an opportunity to listen to any speaker. However, I think as I continue my education, I have become more focused and listened to everything being presented to me, which is one thing I tried to emphasize to the high school students. I think it is important to not shut down any idea the first moment that I am being presented to. I’ve used this thinking during the DownEast rural health immersion, where I have tried to take all the information in and slowly process it, especially as I ponder the decision to practice pharmacy in a rural area.

The visit to the health center in Campobello was a very interesting experience. Seeing the advantages of having universal healthcare in Canada, I did question if the healthcare system in the U.S. is the cause of much of the poor health outcomes that we learn about in class.  These poor health outcomes aren’t limited to rural areas but as a nation as a whole. A common theme that might explain these poor health outcomes in the U.S. that we’ve seen so far in the DownEast rural health immersion is that there is not enough healthcare providers in the communities that we’ve visited (Calais and Lubec so far).  Due to the healthcare professional shortages, we saw certain health professionals wearing many hats and juggling between different responsibilities to deliver the best patient care possible. Another theme that we talked about at length in Campobello, was that a large portion of patients in the rural US are uninsured and that can have an effect on payment to for services and the day to day operations of healthcare systems in rural communities. Thus, I think this issue in particular plays a major role in de-motivating health professional students from practicing medicine rurally because they might struggle financially due to their student loan burden. So, I reflect now and question what if we had universal healthcare in the U.S.? I definitely believe that it would increase accessibility and also allow an easier path for students to fully immerse in practicing their career wherever they want.

This trip has given me a chance to be exposed to rural medicine. So far, I have heard from so many inspirational community members, and their stories about what brought them to rural Maine. The conversations that we’ve had so far and the places that we’ve visisted have made me realize that there is such a need for healthcare services in the rural areas in the state of Maine and I may be able to make a difference as a future provider.

UNE Students share their Experiences on the first day of the 2018 DownEast Rural Health Immersion

May 31st, 2018 by healthinnovation

 

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Ten graduate healthcare students recently participated in a weeklong rural health immersion to Washington County, Maine. Here, the students pose in from of Calais Regional Hospital before spending the day meeting with a number of the hospital staff.

 

Ten UNE health professions students recently participated in a weeklong rural health immersion to Washington County in Maine.  The immersion experience is a part of a pipeline program with Maine’s Area Health Education Center (AHEC) program and UNE’s Center for Excellence in Health Innovation (CEHI) to address healthcare provider shortages in rural Maine.  This is the sixth immersion experience that the Maine AHEC and CEHI have provided for UNE students but the first time that a group has traveled to the DownEast area.  In March a group of 10 students traveled to Piscataquis County; last Fall a group of 10 students traveled to Oxford County and Carroll County in New Hampshire for a long weekend immersion; in May of 2017 a group of 13 medical, pharmacy, dental, and nursing students traveled to Maine’s midcoast region of Knox and Waldo Counties for a weeklong immersion; in March of 2017 medical and nursing students participated in a weeklong immersion in Franklin County; and in May of 2016 a group of 15 medical, pharmacy, and dental students participated in a weeklong immersion in Aroostook County.  Throughout the immersion the students are purposefully split into interprofessional teams so that they can learn the roles and how to communicate effectively with other disciplines in order to learn the skills necessary to provide high quality team-based care and improve patient outcomes.  The students experienced a variety of clinical, community, and population health activities in rural and underserved communities in Washington County, including Calais, Eastport, Lubec, Campobello, and Machias.   Below are reflections from one team after the first day of the trip on Wednesday, May 23, 2018.

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The students stayed at the Washington County Community College for three nights during the trip. During the first night they got to use the rock wall at the community college.

Kelsey Hickey, second year osteopathic medicine student

A common theme from spending just two days in the quintessential Maine town of Calais is pride. I grew up in rural Maine and I remember laughing about this fact at lunch with all the various faculty and staff at UNE – namely those in the group who are “from away”; thinking it was a fun quirk us Mainers have. However, as we toured Calais and its hospital and mental health facilities, I have begun to recognize this pride in myself and in other Maine people who are living in this rural area. I never really realized before, but whenever someone asks me where I’m from, I get a rush of pride to say that I am from Maine. As I reflect on our experiences so far, I think the thing that stands out to me the most is really the people that we have met in Washington County.

This sense of state pride is well earned; I have had the pleasure of traveling to many different places around the world and nothing compares to a the life of a being true Mainer. Hard-working, proud, stubborn for sure, and certainly compassionate. Living in rural Maine is no easy task – you have to work for everything that you get. The rural areas tend to be poor and less educated (a drastic generalization, but I think it can be applied to Calais). Talking with our hospital tour guides and the Calais hospital staff, you would never be able to pick up on these factors that make Calais an underserved population. What I mean by that is again, I just felt an immense pride in all that the greater Calais community has accomplished. Keeping the hospital running in a harsh economic environment is no easy task; but I really liked that everyone seemed able to recognize each other’s strengths (and weaknesses). My impression is that everyone makes sacrifices in living in rural, poor communities, but this is more than made up for by the fact that you are all family, in a sense. I love that everyone looks out for one another and takes care of each other. While I was working in Boston, for example, this was most definitely not the case.

I think this is my rather clumsily-worded way of saying that despite growing up in rural Maine and having my own personal experiences in rural healthcare, just being surrounded by community members and healthcare workers who take such pride in their work just strengthens my resolve and pride in being a Mainer myself. I consider myself lucky to be part of such a strong community, and as our tour guide at the hospital put it, “no matter how poor you are, you always provide for your community.” These are the values I really want to take with me as a physician, because to be able to give back to your community in meaningful ways is truly a privilege, in my opinion. I think everyone found meaning in Dr. McHugh’s sentiment that it is our responsibility to give back and contribute to other’s lives in a meaningful way. These are words I hope will guide me throughout my training.

 

However, despite these wonderful experiences I look forward to talking to more providers about their careers as rural healthcare providers, to see how they overcame the challenges of practicing rural medicine. It’s very true that you make personal and career sacrifices by dedicating your time and effort to a small hospital that has limited resources. I know that my personal and professional goals are somewhat contradictory – I really want to experience a diverse and enriching training after I graduate, and realistically this is best accomplished in a somewhat urban environment. After all, more people = more money. But I found hope in Dr. Lee’s career path: get the most out of your training and do all that you can to enrich your own experiences. Then you can take this training back with you to the rural areas that need it the most. These past couple days have given me clarity in that I know I want to stay in Maine and practice. After all, that stubborn Maine pride usually wins out over everything else.

 

Aliza Hanif, second year dental student

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Aliza Hanif, second year dental student, participates in a conversation on the importance of interprofessional education and practice at UNE with international thought leader, George Thibault, MD.

During my rural health immersion experience with the University of New England, I found myself fully appreciating the sense of community and collaboration that various areas in rural Maine offer. The experience of this trip reminded me of the time when I mentored girls at The First Tee of Miami program on translating the life skills learned from golf into academic and leadership pursuits. Within this program, we learned how each of the nine core values can be applied to their daily lives as students. While on my trip to the health centers in Calais, I too found myself applying those same core values to the experiences that we gained at each site visit.

We ended our first day of the immersion trip with a bit of rock climbing in which we exercised The First Tee core value “courtesy.” It was amazing to see the respect for one another regardless of what profession we were in. It was apparent that all of us had each other’s best interests at heart. This core value is particularly important in healthcare because there should no longer be competition, but rather collaboration.

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While at Calais Regional Hospital, the students met with Dr. Tom McHugh, MD, to talk about substance use disorder.

Bright and early the next morning, we began our journey to different healthcare centers in Calais. One of our site visits included interacting with Dr. Karen Delaney, a family dentist who also performs endodontics and oral surgery. While most general dentists in the field may not feel comfortable performing extractions and root canals, Dr. Delaney was very much the dentist to go to when it came to those particular procedures. I admired her go-getter attitude and the notion that she is truly a champion of evidence-based dentistry. Seeing the state-of-the-art technology in her office taught me that you can truly be innovative even in a rural area in Maine. The experience reminded me of The First Tee core value “judgement” because though Dr. Delaney had the latest technology, she made sure to tailor her procedures to each patient’s needs.

 

The next day of our rural immersion experience began with engaging high school sophomores and juniors at Calais High School. I think the one core value that all of us stressed to the students was “perseverance.” All of us have our own story to tell and it is what makes each of us unique. As a collective group of students, we are from areas that range from extremely rural areas in upstate New York all the way to metropolitan cities like Los Angeles. Whichever pathway we took to get here, we all persevered through our own struggles to solidify a position within our respective professions. We never let anyone’s opinions of us define who we were.

I think one of the biggest takeaways so far from this experience is one of The First Tee’s core values, which is “respect.” While at the Aroostook Mental Health Center in Calais, I witnessed each of our osteopathic, pharmacy, and social work students actively listen to the services provided by this center. We were all awestruck by how much of a powerful role these women play in the lives of the youth. As we discussed various ways to improve communication in healthcare, the hierarchy of medicine disappeared and we all acted as one unit within that room.

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Later in the day the students visited the Aroostook Mental Health Center in Calais.

The best part of this trip was creating a new network of professionals and making life-long friends that I would not have otherwise had the opportunity to meet during dental school. From meeting social workers who deal with cases such as those suffering from bulimia nervosa, to hearing a triple-board certified pulmonary specialist express the importance of mentorship, and finally to being treated like family at a federally qualified healthcare center reminded me of the core value “responsibility.” It is our responsibility as future healthcare professionals to put our own values aside for the sake of our patient. It is our duty to be informed with the latest research of the type of medicine that we will provide to our patients. It is our responsibility to create that beautiful sense of community that all rural areas offer within our own medical practices. I challenge you as my fellow student colleagues to think about your own core values and how you can translate those into your own profession, whether it be an osteopathic physician, a pharmacist, a social worker, or even a dentist.

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Sara McConnell, Maine SNAP-Ed nutrition educator, welcomed the group of students into her Nutrition Education class at the Methodist Church in Calais.

Anna Dempsey, third  year pharmacy student

If you have never been to a hospital in a rural area, Calais Regional Hospital is the place that carries a motto of strong dedication of healthcare professionals committed to serving the community. Dr. Thomas McHugh and Anne Perry (also a state representative that has initiated passing the legislation for PMP in Maine) were some of the professionals who emphasized that if we eventually decided to move to Calais or its surrounding areas then we would need to have solid professional expertise and we would need to be willing to seek resources and opportunities to provide the best possible patient care with limited staff and funds. What impressed me during the visit to the hospital is the inspirational mindset of the providers- having to practice in community-based healthcare and knowing your patients really well and what they are dealing with. This style of healthcare practice actually allows for better patient care outcomes or even patient adherence to medication or appointments; such provider-client relationships brings the patient closer to proposed clinical goal.

The fact that Anne Perry started nursing school at the age of 50 also inspired me as a healthcare professional and someone who can take on a challenge and be able to be innovative and creative in structuring new ideas, especially since most patients are to be perceived as a whole with their mental, physical and psychosocial concerns. And that’s never easy to do, partly because it means you have to be prepared to answer questions and contemplate over things you’d never think of while working in retail pharmaceuticals.

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Anne Perry, F-NP, State Representative, talked to the students about her experience living and working in a rural community.

Dr. Thomas McHugh, who has been practicing in the Regional Medical Center in Lubec as well as in Calais Regional Hospital over the course of his career, also has extensive experience working with patients with substance use disorder. He mentioned that what drove most patients to become addicted was hopelessness. During his career, he has seen patients struggling with addiction and coming back to their providers claiming they aren’t on the right path to recovery. Yet Dr. McHugh always tried to work with patients to overcome resistance and focus on patient’s willingness to suppress or overcome addiction. Dr. McHugh urged us not to be discouraged by the “placebo effect” of the treatment and, for example, that it’s okay to tell a patient, “I can provide the resources but you have to do the work.”

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The students debrief about their experiences in Washington County after the first day of the weeklong trip.

In order to improve healthcare outcomes, both Dr. McHugh and Anne Perry have been working on a project for substance abuse disorder, to collaborate with police, social workers, etc. to get involved with the community and better observe the results of the patient’s path to recovery. The project, they said, will take about two years and is a promising example of the innovative culture in Washington county and an idea that could possibly serve as a sample project to target neighboring counties if positive outcomes are discovered.

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On the way down to Washington County the group stopped in at Renys for “A Maine Adventure”.