Hundreds of doctors have trained in small mining town

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Hundreds of doctors have trained in small mining town

For nearly 40 years, Dr. Greg Rice of Libby, Mont., has taught UW medical students and residents
Kim Blakeley

Nestled in the beautiful Kootenai National Forest is the small mining town of Libby, Mont. Only 2,500 people call Libby home, but they are served well by Dr. Greg Rice, a family physician and co-founder of the Libby Clinic. He has practiced in Libby for nearly 40 years.

Rice recently received recognition from the UW School of Medicine Continuous Professional Improvement Committee for excellence in teaching in a clinical setting. When he opened the Libby Clinic, directly after completing his residency in Seattle, there was a doctor shortage in the small town.

“The only time we’ve had open appointments since opening the clinic was during the first week,” Rice said.

Rice started taking on medical student rotations within his first year of practice. Among his recent trainees was  UW third-year medical student and Federal Way, Wash., native Jamie Oh, who spent six weeks seeing patients with Rice and his associates in the Libby Clinic. 

“You get more exposure and more variety,” Oh said of the rural setting. “That’s different than what you would get in an urban environment. The family docs in small towns take care of everyone.”

The Libby site is one of many in the region of Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho where the required clerkship in family medicine is taught.  They are all part of the WWAMI program of decentralized medical education. WWAMI is a longstanding UW partnership with the five states to encourage trainees to consider future practice in specialties and locations most in need of physicians.

“I have had hundreds of students and residents over the years, and I have loved every minute of teaching,” said Rice.  “Challenging students and helping them make the transition from years of studying, to putting the books down and physically taking care of patients is very rewarding; seeing the students’ excitement when they deliver a baby for the first time or learn to tie a knot never gets old.”