Hawkeye, Scholar, Volunteer, Researcher, and Medical Student Ambassador, those are just a few descriptors that make up Claire Carmichael. However, her most significant title may be Rural Health Advocate. Claire, the daughter of the local veterinarian, grew up in Oskaloosa, Iowa (pop. 11,511). She has experienced running into someone in the grocery store that wants to talk about their dog or cat and having a meal interrupted by a medical emergency. Yet, she is still committed to practicing medicine in rural Iowa.
“Ideally, it would be very similar to the small-town feel of my hometown, where Friday-night football games attract practically the entire community to the stadium or the Christmas lights decorating the businesses in the town square are all that anyone can talk about… You never truly take off the hat that says “doctor,” but that is something that draws me to medicine, especially in a smaller community. Medicine is more than just a job but is instead a lifelong commitment to the health of your daughter’s best friend or the elderly man you always see at the hardware store. That could be seen as a challenge, but I prefer to view it as a benefit to the community I would serve.”
Claire is a two-time recipient of the Laboratory Control Ltd. Health Care Career Scholarship. The scholarship program was started in 2004 by a group of committed healthcare professionals that foresaw the looming healthcare shortage. Their goal, then and now, is to support local students interested in both healthcare and returning to practice in southeast Iowa. Even in her undergraduate studies, Claire was gearing up for rural medicine. In 2018, Claire was one of eight undergraduate students to receive the University of Iowa Stanley Undergraduate Research Award. Claire’s project application was to use GIS and Spatial Analysis to map the relationship between poverty and Leptospirosis, a zoonotic disease passed to humans when water sources are contaminated by infected rodents. Claire spent the summer of 2018 in the urban slum regions of Salvador, Brazil, which opened the door for continued research through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Unfortunately, the timetable of the Fulbright Scholarship overlapped the timetable for medical school admissions. Claire declined the Fulbright Scholarship to continue moving forward in her educational journey.
Today, Claire is a M.D. Candidate I and member of the Carver College of Medicine (CCOM) Rural Iowa Scholarship Program (CRISP). The CRISP program, like the LCL Health Care Career Scholarship, is designed to address the increasing shortage of health care professionals, especially in rural areas. The program is very competitive, and the four students admitted into the program each year must show dedication and a strong commitment to practice medicine in rural Iowa. The CRISP program uses a unique curriculum embedded with rural field experiences to ensure the students gain the breadth and depth of experience and knowledge they are likely to encounter in rural medicine. Claire spent six weeks over the summer at Boone County Hospital. She lived in a room at the hospital and ate almost all her meals in the cafeteria. She was thoroughly immersed in the small community hospital experience. “I spent the mornings with the surgeons, the afternoons in the clinic with various Family Medicine physicians, and the evenings in the emergency department.” She also gained experience riding along with the Emergency Medical Services team, working in the Wound and Hyperbaric Center, and learning from a Diabetes Educator.
Despite the increasing challenge in recruiting new practitioners to rural settings, hospitalrecruiting.com, says it is possible to single out likely candidates by identifying core traits exhibited by successful rural practitioners. These common traits are resilience1, mission-driven focus2, empathy3, and exceptional communication skills4. “The best Rural Superstars will have a blend of all these traits.”
The following are statements from Claire’s Letter of Recommendation submitted by Mary Denmead, Coordinator of Instructional Services at the Carver College of Medicine.
- “Claire consistently demonstrates her ability to work hard and maintain balance in her life while investing the time and effort necessary to do many things well.” Resilience1.
- “In addition to her studies, Claire is involved in numerous student organizations at the Carver College of Medicine that prove her passion for community engagement and mentorship…As examples, she is bi-lingual (Spanish) and has volunteered in healthcare settings in Guatemala, the Johnson County WIC program, and the Iowa City Free Medical Clinics.” Mission-driven focus2.
- “Now that Claire is a medical student here at the College, we have had the opportunity to significantly note how she embodies the communication skills4 she was trained to observe in our students and now applies these skills to empathetic3 and well-structured patient encounters.
Beyond the eligibility requirements of geographical location, GPA, and field of study, the Laboratory Control Ltd. Health Care Career Scholarship and the University of Iowa CRISP program both have a common goal: attract, educate and inspire future “Rural Superstars” to help meet the healthcare demands of our state and Mary Denmead “cannot imagine a better candidate for this role than Claire Carmichael”.