Newsroom Immersing Students in Rural Health Care Posted by Janell Patton on June 7, 2023 When Kobe Kisling first heard the Rural Immersion Program was going to be held at Cox Monett Hospital, he jumped at the chance to participate.This summer, the hospital is serving as a host site for both clinical and non-clinical students enrolled at the University of Missouri in Columbia and University of Missouri Kansas City.Kisling grew up in Sarcoxie, Mo., a rural Jasper County town located just 25 miles to the northwest of Monett.“As a child, I spent a lot of time with my grandpa who had contracted polio when he was young and it had lasting effects throughout his life,” says Kisling. “I remember my parents taking care of him, and I was able to assist once I was older and understood a bit more of what was going on.”For Kisling, caring for a loved one allowed him to see firsthand the importance of providing care to those who need it the most, and it sparked an interest in medicine that would ultimately lead to his career path.Last summer, Kisling moved to Columbia to begin medical school at the University of Missouri as part of the Bryant Scholars Program. According to the university’s website, the Bryant Scholars Program encourages young people from rural backgrounds the opportunity to pursue a medical education.“Moving to a larger city has undoubtedly required a few lifestyle adjustments,” says Kisling. "It has helped me grasp how social issues, such as education, work, and environmental factors, may differ between various settings, in addition to how health care differs between rural and urban places. Understanding these variations is especially crucial if you want to be able to give the greatest care, no matter where you reside.”For three weeks, Kisling has been entrenched in rural health care at Cox Monett. He is learning how health care access and barriers to that access are addressed and how health care providers manage these issues daily.“The program has already allowed me to see interprofessional interactions between physicians, pharmacists, nursing staff, and several other disciplines,” says Kisling. “As my time draws to a close, I am eager to see what else I can learn.”Kisling admits to having a few "Ah Ha" moments while completing the program. “There is a significant investment in healthcare, and people have different perspectives on the role that healthcare plays in society.”One day, for instance, students spent time touring local farms and speaking with farmers to learn about their day-to-day lives. Growing up in the area, Kisling noticed how different individuals have varying opinions on what they deem is more important to receive in a health setting, as well as what they deem less important, an example of this is mental health.Kisling believes mental health is an area of healthcare that should be more readily available in rural regions. He finds it interesting to learn how some of these views have changed over the years and how the general stigma may have prevented the development of mental health services in these communities, which may turn out to be where they are most needed.At this point, Kisling says he is open to all specialties and opportunities as he is still early in his training, but the Rural Immersion Program has given him some great experiences in which he can use to help make his decision on what specialty he might plan to pursue.“Working in the Monett area and meeting physicians, nurses, and other health care staff has been a wonderful experience, and getting to meet the residents of this community has been an even better one,” says Kisling.Kisling urges students not to be afraid to reach out to a rural health care system when it comes to gaining experience. While they might not have as many specialty clinics or services that some of the larger hospitals have, he has found that you can really get a lot more experience out of these smaller community facilities, most often because there are not as many students in these settings.“You will get to see most of the same conditions and/or procedures in a smaller community, and you will usually get firsthand experience because you will be the “go-to” student instead of multiple students competing for the same experience,” says Kisling.“Regardless of what specialization I choose to pursue,” Kisling adds. "I'll say with certainty the program has definitely sparked an interest in practicing medicine in a rural community."