Rural Doctor Program set to launch in 2023

Local4 News at 6
Published: Nov. 18, 2022 at 8:39 AM CST
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KEARNEY, Neb. (KSNB) - CHI Health Good Samaritan and Creighton University are doing their part to solve a health care shortage. The two have created the ‘Rural Track Program’ which will provide a dual residency.

The program is aimed to attract internal medicine and psychiatry students, giving them an opportunity to learn in both Omaha and Kearney. The program could influence them to start their practice in a rural community.

“This is really an important training program for us because rural providers are hard to come by,” said President of CHI Good Samaritan, Curt Coleman. “They’re hard to come by in the health care industry anyway. This offers people an opportunity to learn in a rural setting and really understand what rural medicine is about.”

Students will spend their the first two years of their residency at Bergan Mercy, then finish up at Good Samaritan in Kearney. This means central Nebraska won’t see physicians from this program until 2025.

According to Trading Economics study, in 2021 roughly 17 percent of the United States population live in rural communities. In Nebraska, that number is at 34 percent; and it’s been a struggle to attract and keep physicians in the area.

“I think it’s very difficult sometimes to attract people who didn’t grow up in a rural community because they usually view certain rural areas especially Nebraska that there’s just cows and cornfields everywhere,” said Psychiatrist at CHI Health Richard Young, Dr. Zachary Keller.

Keller added that people generally look at a city’s population and determine if there will be more opportunities and activities to partake in outside of work. But there’s an upside to living in a rural community.

“With having two children and growing up in this community, it’s a very special community,” said Keller. “I really wanted my kids to have that opportunity. Also cost and the amount of people play a part in you know. Where I was living in Denver is a very expensive place to live.”

Keller is a Kearney native that never imagined coming back to his hometown to practice medicine but it helps him relate more to his patients. CHI Health officials say the program may help them see the good in rural communities.

“This opens up a door for others who may have traditionally only looked at urban programs,” said Coleman. “Now they can test the waters them self and see urban verses rural. Which one do they prefer.”

The goal is to provide more care to people in who lack the resource. Some of the patients Dr. Keller helps come from places as far as Valentine. CHI Richard Young is the only psychiatry care in a 45 mile radius of Kearney.