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University of Idaho program aims to fill Idaho's rural doctor shortage

"We have a lot fewer doctors available in a community like this as to compared to an urban setting such as Meridian, Eagle, and Boise," Dr. Hubele said.

WEISER, Idaho — Finding a physician in one of Idaho's small towns can be a challenge, so the Rural Underserved Opportunities Program, or RUOP, is trying to fill that void.

The program is part of a partnership between the University of Washington School of Medicine and the University of Idaho known as WWAMI.

"You can make a big difference in people’s lives and they appreciate that," Dr. Suzanna Hubele, a physician at Two Rivers Clinic in Weiser, Idaho, said.

Hubele has been practicing at Two Rivers for the past 12 years and knew she wanted to practice in a rural community. However, for other physicians, she says it’s difficult to recruit them to places like Weiser.

"If you're married, finding work for your spouse can be a little challenging," Hubele said. "The pay isn't as good, but the work-life balance is so much better, I wouldn't trade it."

For Hubele, the pros of practicing in a small town far outweigh the cons.

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"We look out for each other," Hubele said.  "So, if somebody has got a child and they have some sporting event going on and you want to take time off to go watch that, it's like, 'Oh no problem, I will cover for you.'"

Medical student and Idaho native Samia Munayirji believes working in a small town is appealing, which is why she's participating in RUOP this summer.

"So, every summer, we get RUOP students," Hubele said. "I take one and Dr. Wooten will take one and they are here with us for a month and they are immersed in what our life is like."

Through RUOP, Munayirgi gets hands-on experience working side by side with Hubele and a taste of what it’s like to live and work in rural Idaho.

"From what I have gathered, there is a lot of economic barriers, social barriers that a lot of patients have to face," Munayirgi said. "I think that working and getting experience in a rural community will help me be a better physician to my patients."

It's an attitude that Hubele is hoping more medical students will embrace to eventually fill Idaho's rural doctor shortage.

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