Doctors in Training Look Forward to Health Care Changes

Posted at: 09/21/2013 6:21 PM
Updated at: 09/21/2013 6:25 PM
By: Travis Dill

The Affordable Care Act will give more people access to health care and put pressure on primary care physicians according to doctors. Students at UMD's medical school said they're ready to take on the challenge.

By donning a white coat 57 students at UMD's medical school took their first step toward becoming a doctor on Saturday. The school specializes in creating family physicians according to Regional Campus Dean Gary Davis.

“They sort of represent the values of Minnesota and carry those back to their communities. I tell the parents you send us your children and I'll send back your doctors,” Davis said.

The students take pride in the ceremony, but Class President Emily Prazak said the coats are really about the patients they'll serve.

“We can put on the white coat to feel good about our knowledge, to feel good about our place in the community, but that's not what our white coat is about. I feel confident in saying that none of my classmates here came into medicine with anything else in mind but their patients,” Prazak said.

Dr. Christine Athmann got her white coat 10 years ago and was the keynote speaker for the ceremony. She said learning to focus on the patient gives students the right perspective.

“Sometimes medicine can get bogged down in a lot of paperwork and dictating and politics and what not. So to keep it real with patients is what really keeps you going during your day,” Athmann said.

She said the Affordable Care Act will bring health care to more people, and put pressure on family physicians.

“It's absolutely great as far as they have access. It is going to put a little strain on the system,” Athmann said. “We're already busy as primary care docs. We're already hard to get into and we're going to see a huge influx of patients coming in as they have access to care.”

The students said they'll be ready to take on that challenge in a few years, and Parzak said she's hoping the changes strengthen programs like UMD's medical school.

“We're really the front lines for our patients. We're the people they see first so I would like to see in the future that this health care reform puts the focus back on family physicians,” Prazak said.

Dean Davis said graduates from UMD's medical school play a big role in care around St. Cloud, Grand Rapids, and in the Twin Ports. He said the school has trained over 1,700 doctors.