UW-Madison Department of Ob-Gyn thanks rural training partners on National Rural Health Day

As the state of Wisconsin celebrates National Rural Health Day on November 18, 2021, the University of Wisconsin–Madison Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology would like to thank the physicians and partners across Wisconsin who are training future ob-gyn physicians in rural practice.

The UW–Madison Department of Ob-Gyn created the first rural ob-gyn residency training track in the country to help address shortages in the ob-gyn workforce. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration, the U.S. currently faces a shortage of 9,000 obstetrician-gynecologists nationwide. The shortage is expected to grow to 22,000 by 2050. One in three Wisconsin counties and one in two counties nationwide do not have a practicing ob-gyn.

As part of the rural ob-gyn residency track, residents spend some of their training time at rural hospitals in the region. While on these rotations, the rural track residents get hands-on experience providing ob-gyn care – including prenatal and obstetric care, gynecologic cancer screenings and management of complicated gynecological problems – to people in small communities. 

“Rural training for ob-gyn residents has an important role in increasing the number of physicians prepared for rural practice, and addressing the growing rural-urban disparities in women’s health outcomes,” says UW Ob-Gyn Residency Program Director Ryan Spencer, MD. “We are grateful to work with so many amazing physicians statewide to provide this training opportunity.”

Partnerships with these health care organizations and individuals are invaluable in providing the training experience necessary to prepare rural ob-gyn residents for their future practice:

Aspirus Divine Savior Hospital (Portage, WI) – Brenda Jenkin, MD

SSM Health Monroe Hospital (Monroe, WI) – John Bazley, MD; Jeffrey Dinges, MD; Joseph Ehle, MD; Bibiancy Gutierrez, MD

Waupun Memorial Hospital (Waupun, WI) – Dr. Scott Hansfield

Western Wisconsin Health (Baldwin, WI) – Dennis Hartung, MD; Steven Verbeek, MD

Dr. Jackie Luthardt joined the UW Department of Ob-Gyn in July 2021. Currently in her first year of rural ob-gyn residency training, she has this to say about the program:
“The patient-physician relationship in a rural setting is truly something special and there is such a strong need for providers in these areas,” Dr. Luthardt says. “The rural OB track provides the best of both worlds with academic resources and the opportunity to give back to a rural community during residency, learning to utilize my resources and recognize my limitations that will better prepare me for a future career as a rural ob-gyn.”

Though the UW-Madison rural ob-gyn residency was the first in the nation, residency programs around the country are developing their own rural ob-gyn training tracks. The first trainee recruited to the UW’s rural ob-gyn track, Dr. Laura McDowell, graduated from residency in June 2021. Dr. McDowell is an ob-gyn with Carris Health in Willmar, MN. Current rural ob-gyn residents include Dr. Alexa Lowry, Dr. Madeline Wetterhahn, Dr. Kaley Gyorfi and Dr. Jackie Luthardt.