Claassen has been a volunteer mentor, or preceptor, with the KU School of Medicine’s Kansas Rural Preceptor Program for 15 years. He hosts an average of one student per year.
“KU is trying hard to encourage young physicians to take up specialities that involve primary care and to try to encourage young physicians to practice in rural communities,” Claassen said.
Since 1951, the program places all fourth-year medical students in communities across Kansas, introducing students to the practice of primary care in non-urban areas.
“It’s just an effort to try to get people out into the smaller communities,” Claassen said.
“All the training is done in Kansas City or Wichita and you tend to practice where you train. It’s just like student teaching. If you happen to be student teaching in a school and they offer you a job, you’re going to take it there.
“It opens people’s eyes to what smaller communities are like, and then those who like that lifestyle would tend to gravitate there,” Claassen added. “Otherwise they never have a chance to see what smaller communities have to offer.”
Nearing the completion of his non-urban experience, Topeka native Schulz said he has enjoyed his time in his Hillsboro placement.
“I just liked to see the difference between how medicine is practiced in an urban setting as opposed to a rural setting,” Schulz said. “And it’s nice just to kind of brush up on a lot of things.”
But after four weeks in a rural setting, he and Claassen agree that the practice of medicine remains the same no matter the setting.
“I remember experiencing that medicine is medicine no matter where it is practiced,” Claassen said.
“We’re not limited in a small community just because we live in a small community. We still have access to all the high-tech tests and specialty care if we need it.”
Schulz agreed: “There’s really not a whole lot of difference between the rural and the urban setting. They practice medicine the same in both places.”
Although Schulz plans to pursue a residency in pediatrics in an urban setting, he values his time spent in Hillsboro.
“This is probably the smallest town I’ve lived in ever or have stayed in, so that’s kind of a new experience,” he said.
“The thing I like about the rural city is everybody is pretty close knit in the community, everybody knows each other, and one thing I noticed is I feel pretty safe here.”
“I do like more of an urban environment,” he said. “But I respect anybody who works in the rural field because we definitely need physicians out here.”