Wis. doctor becomes 1st in nation to complete rural OB-GYN residency program

Published: Jun. 14, 2021 at 3:51 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 14, 2021 at 6:41 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A Wisconsin doctor will become the first in the country next week to finish a residency training program to specifically care for women who live in rural areas.

The residency program was started in September of 2016 to combat the nationwide shortage of obstetricians and gynecologists, according to UW Health and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

Dr. Laura McDowell will be the first to complete the program, which takes four years to finish.

“It has been an honor to be the first rural OB-GYN resident trainee,” McDowell said. “I feel this residency prepared me very well for my new role, and I am excited to practice in a rural community and support my patients where they live.”

The medical school explained when a student graduates from medical school, their next step is to go through a medical residency program. McDowell was matched into the rural residency program at UW-Madison in March of 2017 and has worked in rural sites over the past four years, including in Portage, Waupun and Monroe. She will move to a rural part of Minnesota next month to practice general obstetrics and gynecology.

Dr. Ryan Spencer, OB-GYN residency program director, explained doctors are more likely to serve in the areas they do their residency. The goal of the program is to expose these doctors to relevant experience while addressing a serious need for their care.

“We are so excited and proud of Dr. McDowell for being the first person to complete this founding rural OB-GYN residency program,” said Spencer. “We currently have four outstanding rural OB-GYN residents in our program, but there is still a lot of work to be done to improve access to care for the women of Wisconsin.”

The medical school adds that 27 out of the 72 counties in the state do not have any OB-GYN providers, which disproportionately affects women who live in rural communities.

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