In the following Q&A, we catch up with H. Clay Dean, MD, a 2011 graduate of the Wisconsin Academy for Rural Medicine (WARM). Dean, from Blue River, Wisconsin, completed a general surgery residency at Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines.

What type of practice are you in now and where?

Currently I am a general surgeon at Sauk Prairie Healthcare in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin. I have a broad-based general surgery practice that encompasses a wide range of surgical procedures including endoscopy, breast surgery, hernia surgery, gallbladders, colon surgery, gastroesophageal reflux disease surgery and thyroid surgery.

Clay Dean portrait
H. Clay Dean

What do you love about rural practice?  

My favorite part about having a rural practice are the people of the community that I get the opportunity to get to know and have the privilege of providing surgical care to. Our community has a great sense of pride in our hospital. That pride played an integral part in the assistance of building a new facility about three years ago, and in return our hospital has a great sense of pride in providing cutting-edge health care to our community.

The strong relationship between the hospital and community is evident and I am grateful to be a part of such a strong relationship. I have also been able to incorporate a broad-based general surgery practice so that I have a variety in my caseload, which allows me to practice in all fields of general surgery rather than specializing in a specific field.               

Do you have a favorite memory of WARM? 

It is hard to pick out one memory as I owe a lot to the WARM program. I received an outstanding clinical experience and one that helped prepare me significantly for residency. Being able to function essentially as a resident and treated as one during medical school training allowed me to mold myself into the physician that I am today and I am extremely thankful for that opportunity. 

Tell us about your family/hobbies/interests.

My family is my everything and they keep me well-grounded in life. I have a wonderful wife that has been through the entire journey of medical school, general surgery residency and now the start of my surgical practice and deserves most of the credit for us to get where we are today. I have two sons that I absolutely adore and fortunately for me they love to play with their daddy. My boys can always put a smile on my face. My hobbies include spending time with my family, playing any type of sport with my boys, especially basketball and baseball, hiking, boating and staying physically active. 

Do you have any advice for current and future WARM students?

Make the most of your opportunity. I was fortunate to have great mentors to learn from but most importantly they allowed me to grow as a medical student and ultimately as a physician. I worked hard to perform at a higher level than my designated level of training. As a result my mentors allowed me to gain more autonomy and responsibility with my patients and ultimately allowed me to gain a greater sense of ownership with my patients, which laid the foundation for my patient-first approach to medicine.