COOS BAY — In an effort to provide medical training opportunities and better meet the needs of people in underserved areas, Oregon Health and Science University has set the stage for a rural campus to be located in Coos Bay that will train students in the medical fields and allow them to serve residents of Coos County.
The university has also named a local medical professional to lead the campus, which will begin operating this fall.
Dr. Carla McKelvey, a pediatrician at North Bend Medical Center, will serve as the regional associate dean of the Coos Bay rural campus, which will have 12 to 15 students serving in their respective fields from OHSU programs in dentistry, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, physician assistant and public health.
The program, which has the first group of students set to begin on Sept. 28, was initially announced in November but details about the Coos Bay campus were not yet established until now. Klamath Falls is the location of a second rural campus site.
“This is a multidisciplinary educational effort,” said McKelvey, who will work out of her office at NBMC. “I've been a huge advocate for rural health so it was important to me that we made sure that an opportunity like this would be one that Coos Bay would get.”
Depending on their discipline, students will work with health care providers working in the medical office setting, learning clinical skills and training on different rotations.
Dental students will be working with local dentists from North Bend's Advantage Dental Clinic and Dr. Tim Holt's office while medical students will work from the Bay Clinic and North Bend Medical Center. Pharmacy students will work through Western Oregon Advanced Health and local Walgreens.
“The face of health care is changing because physicians are working in care teams now and so students want to learn how to work within the context of a care team,” McKelvey said. “Part of that is having the opportunities to collaborate with each other and work on case studies and community projects. So there will be curriculum outside the clinical experience.”
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McKelvey, who is a member of the Oregon Health Policy Board — the policy-making and oversight body for the Oregon Health Authority — is also a former president of the Oregon Medical Association. Previously she served as medical director for Doctors of the Oregon Coast South, which manages the Oregon Health Plan for Coos County.
She said that because Coos Bay has facilitated training for students in the past, the rural campus is really just building on a program that's been in existence for awhile.
Funding for the rural campus endeavor is being provided by a grant from the Oregon Community Foundation that is providing $60,000 a year for three years.
The city of Coos Bay is working on renovating a building that would serve as permanent housing for the students.
McKelvey, who noted that those enrolled are post-college students ranging in age from 22 and older, said that a few of the students are already here living in Coos Bay.
"That OHSU is hoping to place students from different medical disciplines and reach out to the rural communities and house some of the students from each of the disciplines in rural Oregon for a term or more while they're attending — it's a huge effort on the part of OHSU,” said Coos County Commissioner John Sweet. “And so it's a real honor to be chosen and an excellent opportunity for all of Coos County. Having some new people in our community who hopefully attract health care professionals to the area is exciting."
McKelvey said Coos Bay is the right community for such a venture and that she hopes medical professionals might elect to stay here long-term.
“We have a great health care community here. We have a wide variety of providers. We have a good base of nurse practitioners and physician assistants, so we have the components that help encourage cooperation,” she said. “I've been in this community for 19 years. I think it's a neat community to live in and work in. I think we are a blank slate ready for innovative people.”