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Adam Robb ’05

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Varied interests, individualized major direct student toward rural health

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – If Bethel College student Natalie Stucky is an example, Kansas medical schools are looking for potential health-care practitioners with interests that range far beyond medicine.

Stucky, a junior from Moundridge, learned earlier this summer that she had been accepted into the University of Kansas’ prestigious Scholars in Rural Health program, which only takes 10-15 students at a time.

According to the program website, Scholars in Rural Health is “designed to attract and retain young rural Kansans with a high probability of successful careers in rural communities.”

The site goes on to say that medical students who eventually practice as physicians in rural communities often point to “an identifiable mentor and/or early premedical primary care experience” as deeply influencing their choice, and that rural physicians are more likely to have grown up in a rural community.

Among the criteria for selection: the student must be at least a sophomore at a Kansas college or university, with two years of study remaining; must have had “significant experience living in a rural Kansas community”; and must demonstrate a commitment to service.

Students who satisfactorily complete the program earn automatic admission to the KU School of Medicine. The anticipated outcome is an increase in the number of students from Kansas rural communities who choose health-care practice in rural Kansas.

During her two years at Bethel, Stucky has been a two-time qualifier for the American Forensic Association-National Individual Events Tournament; has served on Bethel’s Student Senate (she will be student body president in 2011-12) ; and has played the role of Hermione Granger in last spring’s Bubbert Award first-place film Harry Potter and the Threshers of Bethel.

This summer, in addition to working for her father (Glenn Stucky, a farmer), Stucky has been spending a day a week shadowing local physician Jon Jantz at Cottonwood Pediatrics in Newton.

Stucky says she came to Bethel interested in pursuing a career in medicine, did some reevaluating and has now circled back – though with a broader perspective, thanks to the addition, during the 2010-11 school year, of Bethel’s Individualized Major option.

Stucky credits her mother, Pat Stucky, a lab supervisor, and her grandmother, Susan Clark, a nurse, with sparking her interest early.

“When my brother [2011 Bethel graduate Alex Stucky] and I were little, my mom worked at the Halstead Hospital in the lab, and we would be in daycare there,” Stucky remembers. “Sometimes she wasn’t ready to leave [when the child care center closed] and we would hang out with her.

“One day, she sat me down and had me look at slides under a microscope. I was about five. I’ve been fascinated ever since.”

Her time with Jantz this summer, she says, has taught her that “I really like primary care – I like interacting with patients.” Jantz has allowed her, with permission of patients and their parents, to do some minimal examination of minor complaints like sore throats and earaches.

Stucky remembers Dwight Krehbiel, professor of psychology, mentioning the Scholars in Rural Health program sometime in her freshman year, highlighting the participation of Braeden Johnson, a 2009 Bethel graduate who is now a student at the KU School of Medicine.

“I recommended Natalie as a candidate, though the idea of doing this was more her initiative,” Krehbiel says. “We talked about it at some length, and I gave her advice on things she might do to enhance her chances of acceptance,” including the physician-shadowing, which Krehbiel helped arrange.

Using the IM option, Stucky has declared a major she is tentatively calling “history; social justice.” “It’s mainly social work with a [particular] focus on social justice,” she says. She is interested in study abroad as well as getting “background in conflict resolution,” she says.

One area in which she sees these interests connecting to medicine is a possible future assignment with an organization like Doctors Without Borders.

Over the next two years, Stucky will spend at least 40 hours a semester plus one summer, for a total of 200 hours, on the Scholars in Rural Health program. She will devote that time to working with her mentor – being exposed to a variety of health-care services, including office and hospital practice – and to completing a manuscript reviewing a topic related to rural health service or clinical care.

And after that – the options are wide open.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2011-12 Forbes.com analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States, and is in the first tier in its category in the U.S. News & World Report annual ranking of “America’s Top Colleges” for 2011. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.

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