Choosing a rural residency program

To get the most of your family medicine residency, and prepare yourself for the rigors of rural practice, seek out programs with these six attributes:

1. Best-of-Both-Worlds Resources

In a 1-2 rural track, you train in two distinct environments. Make sure each has the resources to fully develop your clinical competence.

The urban environment should offer:

The rural environment should offer:

  • unopposed training
  • one-on-one mentorship
  • a medically underserved patient base
  • the opportunity to treat patients for conditions that would be referred to specialists in urban areas

2. Training in a Federally Qualified Health Center

Consider only those programs that train you in a federally qualified health center. If possible, choose an FQHC that is nationally ranked in the top 5 percent for quality care. This ensures that you receive extraordinary training in quality improvement.

As the safety net provider in a rural region, an FQHC must:

  • serve an underserved area or population
  • offer a sliding fee scale
  • provide comprehensive services
  • have an ongoing quality assurance program

What does that mean for you?

You’ll provide care for a broad base of patients, regardless of their ability to pay.

You’ll tap a variety of resources — including language translators and telemedicine — to help your patients overcome obstacles to care.

You’ll conduct community needs assessments and collaborate on outreach and screening programs.

In the process, you’ll improve not only your patients’ health, but the health of the region.

3. More Opportunities to Treat than Refer

Find out whether your prospective rural residency can promise you full-scope clinical and procedural training.

Rural training is rewarding because it provides you with opportunities you won’t encounter elsewhere. Since fewer specialists practice in these communities, you’re able to expand your skills across the board.

In our program, you’ll care for a diverse population of inpatients in a regional medical center with a large catchment area.

Rather than referring, you’ll diagnose and treat, adding to your clinical repertoire and upping your confidence.

4. A Medically Complex Caseload

In a quality rural residency program, you should be treating patients with more medically complex conditions, more comorbid conditions and more obstacles to care than you’d encounter in an urban residency.

In our rural region, roughly 35 percent of the population is underserved — higher than the state average. We have more individuals living in poverty and, significantly, more children living in poverty (26 percent).

We also have among the state’s highest rates of smoking, obesity and teen pregnancy.

Our patients’ needs drive our residents to train with a deeper sense of purpose.

Consequently, they develop into practitioners who practice with extraordinary skill, sensitivity and compassion.

5. A Flexible Schedule

Wherever you train, you’ll put in long workweeks and handle large caseloads. But there will come times when your personal commitments and professional goals call for flexible scheduling.

Can the programs you’re considering guarantee you that?

For example, will your program director allow you to change your call or rotation schedule if an urgent personal issue arises?

If you seek more in-depth experience in emergency medicine, pediatrics or another field, can you tweak your schedule to train in a specialized urban setting, such as a level 1 trauma center or a dedicated pediatric hospital?

At UB, the answer to all of these questions is an unequivocal “yes.”

6. The Full Benefits of Rural and Urban Living

When you’re in a rural residency program, your cost of living should be lower than in an urban program, but your compensation should be the same. That way, you can get ahead on loan payments and begin saving for the future.

In our program, residents live affordably in both their urban and rural training communities.

Buffalo boasts one of the country’s most inexpensive urban housing markets. It’s a small city with a wealth of cultural and recreational attractions.

Olean is a tight-knit, friendly city where you’ll be welcomed as both a community physician and health care leader.

This rural region boasts:

Buffalo and Olean are located less than 80 miles apart. After you complete your PGY-1 year in Buffalo, you’ll return there monthly for workshops, hands-on clinical assessments and other didactics.