Iowa's family physicians train the next generation

Date: Thursday, November 15, 2018

The University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine’s Family Medicine Preceptorship provides an opportunity for all medical students to spend four weeks on-site with a family physician practicing in Iowa. Students work closely with their physician preceptors to learn how to treat a variety of health conditions, and the rotation is among the most highly rated courses in the curriculum.

Lonny Miller, MD

Lonny Miller portrait

Lonny Miller, MD, is one of the preceptors practicing the “full spectrum of family medicine” in southwest Iowa. He has a busy practice in Creston, providing outpatient and inpatient care, obstetrics services, and emergency department coverage. He is also medical director of a rural clinic in Lenox and serves as a medical examiner for Union County.

However, before Miller became a family physician, he was a UI medical student, and he did his four-week family medicine rotation in Manchester with R. Reid Boom, MD, a 1980 Carver College of Medicine graduate.

“I remember being in their shoes, so I do my best to allow medical students to hone their clinical skills and develop their confidence in the exam room with the same positive encouragement I was given as a student,” says Miller, a 2009 graduate.

“I often explain to the student that family medicine is a specialty of breadth, not limited by age, gender, or organ system,” Miller says. “As such, we are invited into the lives of our patients and their families, and we are allowed to share their experiences at a level that is truly humbling.”

“I have comforted a family at the bedside as their matriarch passed away, and only months later been there to deliver their newborn child,” Miller explains. “I cannot imagine a more rewarding career in medicine than that of a family physician.”

Cameron Jones
Fourth-year medical student

Cameron Jones portrait

“I think the challenge of learning so many aspects of medicine is what makes family medicine an exciting path to take,” says Cameron Jones, a fourth-year medical student and co-president of the UI Family Medicine Interest Group. “One of the most attractive aspects of family medicine to me is that the more training I receive, the more expansive my practice can become. For many other specialties, getting more training equates to a narrower scope of practice.”

During a rotation in Rockwell, a community of about 1,000 people, Jones worked with two family practitioners who are married and run their own practice, Josh Baker, DO, and Charity Baker, DO. The Bakers provide several services that fit the specific needs of the community, including:

  • Performing most of the workers’ compensation care for a local factory
  • Conducting Iowa Department of Transportation physicals 
  • Caring for patients at a nearby nursing home
  • Providing cosmetic care for patients 

“As I was there, the Bakers completed a course on how to treat opioid addictions with Suboxone. They have now joined a group of physicians seeking to provide this highly needed service,” Jones says. 

It was easy for Jones to see that the Bakers’ patients trusted them. By working with the Bakers, Jones found that focusing his efforts on the needs of patients helps build trust, which brings comfort and satisfaction to both physicians and patients. 

“Faculty, residents, and support staff have all been very genuine, compassionate people that are a pleasure to work with. Patients are also great to work with in this setting because I can really become a part of their lives. I definitely feel the ‘family’ aspect of family medicine,” says Jones, who intends to specialize in family medicine.

Erin Renfrew
Fourth-year medical student

Erin Renfrew portrait

Erin Renfrew, a fourth-year medical student, is comfortable with communities the size of her hometown of Colorado Springs, Colorado—with a population of more than 400,000 people—or Iowa City. But she spent two of her rotations in Maquoketa—home to about 6,000 people—with Jerald Bybee, MD.

Despite her familiarity with larger cities, Renfrew enjoyed the close-knit community in Maquoketa. Renfrew has completed three family medicine rotations, working with Bybee on two of them, which convinced her to pursue family medicine as her specialty. 

“I knew I was going to be a generalist of some flavor because I have always had very diverse interests,” Renfew says. “It solidified during my third rotation in Maquoketa when I found I really enjoyed working with people on chronic issues and seeing them in multiple settings like the clinic, the hospital, and the ER.”

Bybee’s responsibilities in Jackson County include seeing patients in the clinic, in the hospital, and at a mental health center; working in the emergency room; doing outpatient procedures such as colonoscopies; and providing medical care to nursing home residents.

Because Bybee is so involved in the community’s health care, Renfrew was always on the go. She learned more than she thought was possible in the few weeks she spent there.

“Between the 6:30 a.m. discussion sessions on biochemistry, and the 11 p.m. conversations about hospital administration, and everything in between, it felt like he was trying to share all of his 40 years of medical practice with me in four weeks,” says Renfrew, who feels lucky to have worked with Bybee, a 1978 Carver College of Medicine graduate.

“He cares deeply about his patients, and he builds strong connections with them because he has been seeing many of them for several years,” she says.