Waupun Memorial Hospital supports nation’s first rural OB/GYN residency program

Shelly Haberman
Scott Hansfield

Waupun Memorial Hospital staff is providing memorable experiences for Laura McDowell, MD, PGY2, as she serves as an Obstetrics/Gynecology (OB/GYN) resident, rural training track, with the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

However, in doing so, this rural hospital is helping to address a nationwide shortage of obstetricians and gynecologists, especially in rural areas. For the past three years, the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health has offered the nation’s first rural-residency program to train and provide care to women in rural Wisconsin.

Residency is medical training where newly-graduated doctors practice medicine under supervision of an attending physician. The OB/GYN residency program lasts four years.

“Residents who train in certain settings are more likely to locate their practices in similar settings,” according to Ryan Spencer, MD, director of the rural OB/GYN residency program at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “We want to give them experience in these underserved areas. “Some women need to drive more than an hour to see an OB/GYN. This program plans to train doctors to practice in the rural areas.”

According to the American College of Nurse-Midwives nearly half the counties in the U.S. do not have an OB/GYN. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists estimate there will be between 6,000 and 8,800 fewer OB/GYN than needed in the United States by the year 2020 and a shortage of possibly 22,000 by the year 2050.

“Being that it is the first rural training track in OB/GYN in the country, I am very humbled, excited and driven to blaze the trail to help ensure this training track’s success,” says Dr. McDowell. “On these rotations, I learn how to juggle the different aspects of OB/GYN practice by managing clinic, labor and delivery, and the potential to go to the operating room simultaneously. Working alongside these rural OB/GYNs is also a rewarding and inspiring experience. My goal is to live up to the great work these physicians are doing every day for their patients.”

Dr. McDowell has been working with Scott Hansfield, MD, Waupun Memorial Hospital OB/GYN. “We have enjoyed Dr. McDowell’s time with us,” says Dr. Hansfield. “We are working with her to provide insight into all aspects of offering OB/GYN services in a smaller, critical access hospital. We know that in this environment, residents need to feel confident in their abilities to manage any circumstance. By having part of her training at a rural hospital, Dr. McDowell, like other residents, will be more comfortable taking a job at a rural hospital.”

The experience has been very positive, and Dr. McDowell is learning from her peers.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Waupun Memorial Hospital,” she says. “Working with and learning from Dr. Hansfield and his staff has made this rural rotation the best experience yet. Seeing how Dr. Hansfield manages his clinic, operating room, and labor and delivery has been insightful for my learning.

“Watching him deliver babies is one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced as he has truly perfected this art with such finesse,” Dr. McDowell adds. “I am thoroughly impressed by him and his ability to be a solo OB/GYN provider while excelling at it every day.”

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