"My Rural Rotation in Millinocket, Maine"

By Nick Hajj, UMass Medical School Class of 2015
My rotation was with Dr. Marco Cornelio at Health Access Network in Millinocket, Maine.  As a medical student interested in eventually becoming a family practitioner in rural New England, I chose this rotation as a way of getting a better understanding of what this entails and simultaneously help develop my clinical skills.  This rotation did a phenomenal job of educating me in both the skills and logistics of rural medicine involved in rural medicine, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there.

Having the opportunity to both live and work in an extremely small town taught me much about rural practice.  I began to appreciate the increased need for family doctors and the challenges of limited access to specialty medical care.  This also meant that I got to see and do much more in the office than I have in any urban rotation.  On a typical day we would see patients ra

nging from 2 weeks old to 92 years old, perform a minor surgical procedure or two, and treat illnesses covering the spectrum.  I also had the opportunity to work with an Occupational Medicine doctor, going with him to see patients at a paper mill.  I began to notice the importance the doctors played in their rural communities, and how personal their practice of medicine was. 

Integrating in the community helped me better understand this; my lodging was in the heart of downtown Millinocket (a road with a smattering of shops) and made me come in contact with many of the townspeople. I was an obvious outsider, a Middle Easterner in a very homogenous Caucasian community, and received several strange looks at first.  However, as the month went on and I got to know many of the people in town, I could walk into a local restaurant and have several different people recognize me and begin a conversation. The more I understood the community, the more I realized how much they depended on their local physicians and how much of an impact these physicians made.

The AHEC program’s support for this rotation gave me the opportunity to truly experience a rural practice, helping me to solidify my desire to practice in a rural New England community.  This rotation was one of the best that I have ever done, and I highly recommend it for any student interested in rural medicine.