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Ceremony Marks Transition into Next Phase of UW Medical Students’ Education

January 23, 2020
large group of people wearing white jackets
Wyoming-WWAMI students who recently received their white coats, along with mentors and others, are, from left: Dr. Suzanne Allen, Dr. Valerie Lengfelder, Sean McCue, Ryan Winchell, Logan Taylor, Jacob Zumo, Jesse Hinshaw, Caleb Brackett, Aleksandra Zarzycka, Conner Morton, Amanda Golden, Alexis Anderson, Rida Fatima, Adam Blaine, Allana Hall, Elliott Trott, Renae Wollman, Marcus Couldridge, Daulton Grube, Reed Ritterbusch, Reno Maldonado, Trey Thompson, Tim Robinson and Dr. Larry Kirven. (Brian Harrington Photo)

Twenty second-year students enrolled in the Wyoming-WWAMI Medical Education Program on the University of Wyoming campus recently marked an important point of transition.

Having completed two years of the “foundations” phase of the program’s medical curriculum, these students received their white coats during a December ceremony, signifying a transition to the clinical phase of their education.

The white coat is used to symbolize compassion and honor, and will be worn by the students throughout the clinical portion of their medical training. The students rotate through various medical specialty clinical education rotations, known as clerkships, throughout the five-state WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho) region, including teaching hospitals associated with the University of Washington School of Medicine (UWSOM) in Seattle.

The ceremony, attended by friends and family of the medical students, WWAMI administration, faculty and staff, along with invited guests, was held at UW’s Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center.

Tim Robinson, director of the Wyoming-WWAMI Medical Education Program, highlighted the importance of this transition for medical students, going from “classroom to bedside.” He says that UWSOM is among the top three medical schools in the U.S. and that graduates from the WWAMI program provide Wyoming residents with “unsurpassed physician care.”

Robinson expressed gratitude to the Wyoming Legislature for its vision in strongly supporting WWAMI and emphasized that the delivery of a top medical curriculum “would not be possible without the tremendous support of the entire state -- including the Wyoming State Legislature, the Wyoming Medical Society, Wyoming hospitals, private practice clinics, physician and Ph.D. instructors, WWAMI alumni and University of Wyoming administration.”

Robinson says this year’s WWAMI class is particularly strong in the area of leadership. One of the class members, Alexis Anderson, of Jackson, founded the group Wyoming Women in Medicine -- an organization dedicated to promoting collaboration of female physicians in Wyoming, fostering new female physicians and using the unique perspective of female providers to advocate for women in medicine within the region. Another member, Ryan Winchell, of Cody, began a local campaign of “Stop the Bleed,” a national campaign aimed at providing the education, equipment and training to help in an emergency setting involving uncontrollable bleeding before help arrives.

“These are just a couple of examples of the passion that these students have for taking care of the people of our great state of Wyoming,” Robinson says.

Dr. Valerie Lengfelder, an alumna of the first WWAMI class of 1997, presented the evening’s keynote address. Lengfelder, a family practice physician from Powell, spoke to students about the challenges and achievements that lie ahead in their careers as physicians.

“I would like the students to enjoy their time learning from all of their patients,” Lengfelder said. “I also want them to know that they will see unusual, interesting and complicated patients in rural areas as well as in the city.” 

WWAMI faculty members, who served as mentors to the medical students, presented their student mentees with their white coats. Drs. Yvette Haeberle, John Haeberle, Julie Carlson and Mark Wefel each mentored five students during their time in the program on the UW campus.

“Mentoring the medical students has been the most rewarding part of my job,” Dr. Yvette Haeberle says. “Developing lifelong relationships with the future Wyoming physicians is similar to the relationships that I developed in training. The students also help the mentors stay on their game as far as new drugs, technology and treatments. Mentors not only teach the basic clinical skills of performing history and physical exams, but also help the students develop effective communication skills, foster professionalism and demonstrate the importance of work-life balance.”

As part of a special recognition of service and announcement of retirement, the WWAMI Medical Education Program recognized Dr. Larry Kirven. Kirven has served as clinical assistant dean for the program since 2013. During that time, the Wyoming-WWAMI program has seen its class composition double, from 20 students on the UW campus to a total of 40.

Kirven, originally from Buffalo, attended Oregon State University from 1972-75 and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology. He attended UW as a nondegree-seeking graduate student from 1976-78, while working as an EMT and ambulance service supervisor at Ivinson Memorial Hospital in Laramie. Kirven completed his family medicine residency at Family Medicine Spokane, in Washington state, from 1982-85 and is a retired family medicine physician.

“Dr. Kirven has been an invaluable resource for Wyoming-WWAMI and his service to medical education in Wyoming,” Robinson says.

Wyoming-WWAMI accepts 20 students each year, and they spend 18 months on the UW campus before heading to clinical sites throughout the WWAMI region. The Wyoming-WWAMI class recognized in December is the first Wyoming medical class to take all of its “foundations” curriculum in Wyoming.

Students in the 2018-19 WWAMI class, listed by hometown, are:

Big Piney -- Caleb Brackett.

Casper -- Marcus Couldridge and Conner Morton.

Cheyenne -- Trey Thompson, Aleksandra Zarzycka and Jacob Zumo.

Cody -- Amanda Golden, Sean McCue and Ryan Winchell.

Encampment -- Jesse Hinshaw.

Gillette -- Adam Blaine.

Jackson -- Alexis Anderson and Elliott Trott.

Laramie -- Allana Hall, Reno Maldonado and Renae Wollman.

Rock Springs -- Rida Fatima and Daulton Grube.

Sheridan -- Reed Ritterbusch.

Sinclair -- Logan Taylor.

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