ARMC, MSU form partnership

ALPENA -The Alpena Regional Medical Center is going to provide an opportunity for medical students enrolled in the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine to hone their skills locally.

At a press conference Monday, ARMC and MSU announced Alpena has become one of three facilities that will be included in the school’s rural community health program. Alpena joins Charlevoix Area Hospital and McLaren Northern Michigan Hospital in Petoskey to open its door to allow medical students wishing to pursue a career in rural medicine an opportunity to shadow doctors as well as become a functioning member of the community.

ARMC Vice President of Medical Affairs Richard Bates, MD, said the program will allow the third-year students a chance to learn how a hospital in a rural community operates, and some fourth-year students to take more action in the specialty field of their liking.

“This will provide the students an opportunity to meet a community, get to know a community and then hopefully fall in love with the community,” Bates said. “Maybe one day after their residency somewhere else they may want to come back and practice medicine. I think we do have a great community and I think the students will want to come back.”

Program Director Andrea Wendling, MD, said the students will be active in the community as part of the program’s requirements. She said there are still some logistical issues that need to be addressed, but the first student started at the ARMC on July 1.

“We choose students who are interested in being here in a rural area basically,” Wendling said. “We provide them the basics of medicine and see how things are practiced in a rural region. They will, over time, learn the things that make rural medicine special. We build in community integration, leadership activities and public health, so they understand that in order to be successful they need to have those skills as well.”

Bates said the students will shadow health care professionals at ARMC, but won’t practice medicine on the hospital patients. He said when the time comes for them to be more hands on in treatment, they will move on to residency.

“They will be working alongside a physician to learn basic skills,” Bates said. “They will begin following and interviewing patients, and looking at patients for diagnosis, formulating treatment plans with physicians. They will see how the entire thought process works in practice. They will get a sampling of the many different areas of specialty medicine from internal medicine to surgery, to gynecology to psychology. It is sort of a survey of the whole medical landscape.”

Wendling said once they are assigned to learn in Alpena they will spend a great deal of time here. She said the school wants them to feel comfortable in Alpena, so they can focus on their studies.

“We want them to live in the community when they are here and for it to feel like home to them,” Wendling said. “Our goal is that over an 18 month period during their entire third year of school and part of their fourth, they will spend more than six months spread out over a year and a half.”

Wendling said Alpena works well for the program because it has a nice blend of practical medicine practices, as well as specialists who can handle more complicated matters.

“Alpena provides a really nice balance. It is a rural referral center for a seven county area and covers the primary care needs well, as well as basic specialists needs,” Wendling said. “We felt like it is an excellent model for this program.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review … at