The Wisconsin Academy for Rural Medicine (WARM) is a rural education program within the MD Program curriculum at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. The goal of WARM is to address physician shortages in rural areas by admitting and training students who intend to practice rural medicine, ultimately helping to improve the health of rural Wisconsin communities.
Medical students enrolled in the four-year program develop crucial skills through opportunities to learn in a rural setting. The Wisconsin Academy for Rural Medicine ensures its students meet the same rigorous goals, objectives and competencies that the UW School of Medicine and Public Health requires of all students while tailoring experiences to meet students' career interests.
Students who complete the program emerge prepared for residencies in any specialty area, as rural Wisconsin hospitals and health systems have expressed a need for physicians of all specialties, with an emphasis on primary care.
There's a significant geographic shortage and maldistribution of physicians that affects rural Wisconsin. While 28 percent of Wisconsin residents live in rural areas, only 11 percent of physicians have rural practices.
Those figures compare unfavorably to national data where 20 percent of the population lives rural and nine percent of physicians have rural practices. Sixty of 72, or 83 percent, of Wisconsin counties are designated as totally or partially underserved and seventy-seven percent of those underserved counties are rural.
The shortage of rural physicians is projected to increase as current rural physicians retire and the population ages, creating a need for more physicians. Further, studies have shown that rural populations are generally sicker, poorer, older and more likely to be uninsured.
The Wisconsin Academy for Rural Medicine has been fortunate to have support from the Wisconsin Partnership Program. The program received a Collaboration Planning Grant in 2004 and a Strategic Initiatives Grant in 2005. Funding was awarded to the program in 2006 and it received an implementation grant in 2007. Each of these funding milestones allowed WARM to further its planning and, eventually, its formation within the School of Medicine and Public Health.