An energizing event with expert presenters placed this year’s RTT Collaborative Annual Meeting on solid ground.  The May 27-29 conference was hosted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Pyle Center, with lakefront views and an easy rooftop glance to both the university campus and State Capitol.

Rural graduate medical education (GME) advocates and educators, content experts, policy leaders and family medicine program directors all gathered from around the nation to engage in meaningful opportunities to network and collaborate at the three-day annual event. The main draw: developing real-world solutions for the critical shortage of rural physicians throughout the United States.

Opening plenary speaker, Dr. John Frey, professor emeritus from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, proposed that a primary step to advancing rural health care might be about employing “the right people.” He also added that new infrastructure, technology and curriculum might help, such as initiating a rural massive open online course (MOOC).

During Thursday morning’s first session of the RTT Technical Assistance Program, participants raised vital questions regarding federal regulations of GME finance and their application to rural programs. Guest speaker Miechal Lefkowitz, representing the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) as Regional Office Rural Health Coordinator, explained CMS rules with clarity and skill. Although CMS implements law enacted by Congress, Lefkowitz established that CMS is a regulatory agency and is not involved in developing or recommending workforce policy.

A final-day visit to St. Clare Hospital in Baraboo, WI, offered a tour of the fully accredited, award-winning rural hospital as well as a speaker panel of graduates from UW-Madison’s Baraboo RTT Family Medicine Residency Program. Explaining why they chose to train at Baraboo RTT, followed by why they decided to stay, the graduates demonstrated determining factors of a successful RTT. Forward movement, they say, is inspired by teamwork and values.

Stephanie Hansen, NOSORH Education and Services Director, recommends “all State Offices of Rural Health attend this annual event to learn ways to support and expand rural residency programs in their state.”

For additional information on the RTT Collaborative and access to speaker presentations, please view the RTT Collaborative Annual Meeting link.

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