A recent college graduate from Lodi will participate in a sought-after rural medical education program through the UW School of Medicine and Public Health.

Noah Maerz will spend the next four years in medical school to pursue a career as a rural medical professional.

Maerz was accepted to the Wisconsin Academy for Rural Medicine (WARM) program of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. The program is a nationally recognized initiative that prepares and supports students who intend to practice in rural Wisconsin and help improve the health of those communities.

The program was created due to the shortage of physicians in rural Wisconsin. In fact, in 2018, while 29 percent of Wisconsin residents live in rural locations, only 13 percent of physicians in Wisconsin have rural practices.

In the rural medicine program, students complete their first 16 months of medical school in Madison at the School of Medicine and Public Health. Students will spend the remaining years of medical school at statewide School of Medicine and Public Health sites including Aurora BayCare in Green Bay, which is part of the Advocate Aurora Health/Eastern Academic Campus, Gundersen Health System/Western Academic Campus in La Crosse and Marshfield Clinic Health System/Northern Academic Campus in Marshfield, along with their networks of rural hospitals and clinics.

Students also participate in regular core days at their sites to focus on a specific topic from a rural perspective and complete a community health project.

Past project topics have included farm-to-table programs, concussion awareness for youth athletes, rural drug and alcohol abuse, health literacy and community disaster drills.

Opportunities also exist for students to do electives at away sites, and pursue global health opportunities, as well as complete the Master’s of Public Health program or the Path of Distinction in Public Health at the School of Medicine and Public Health.

Only 26 students are accepted for the program each year, and admission is limited to applicants who are legal residents of Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois or Iowa. Since May 2011, almost 180 students have graduated from the program, and 79 percent of those graduating from residencies are practicing in Wisconsin. Twenty-eight percent of graduates returned to practice medicine in or near their hometowns, according to Alison Klein, WARM outreach specialist.

“The program is looking forward to working with another wonderful group of talented students who joined us in August,” she said. “We continue to be impressed by the dedication to and passion for rural that our students possess.”

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