His name was Caddy Shack: not the first horse I had ridden, but the first horse I had ridden in a long time. He didn’t know me; in fact I’m sure I was a stranger, as I had only arrived at his house 30 minutes before. Still, here I was, riding through the woods of Wisconsin on his back, four other horses in front and none behind. Little did I know that this was just the beginning of the adventure that “Camp Polzin” had to offer. Following our hour-long horseback trek through the woods, we were greeted by the warm smells and hearty taste of the first of many excellent Sue Polzin meals. Though she claims to be a high-school math teacher, I suspect there is a Cordon Bleu degree in her past. After the first evening, my classmates and I settled into our beds, excited for what our selective in Black River Falls, Wisconsin had in store.
The rest of the week only brought more adventure, including 5:30 AM boot camp workouts, journeys through white water rapids, volleyball games, and high altitude rope-swings. Most days we didn’t know if we were at camp or on an educational venture. The answer came when we entered the clinic and hospital. Black River Memorial Hospital (BRMH) is one of the few and certainly the most remarkable remaining independent hospitals in western Wisconsin. The newly renovated BRMH bears the marks of an excellent community hospital, apparently the pride-and-joy of the town. Across the street, the more humble Krohn Clinic signifies years of dedicated service to the community, being named after the founding Brothers Krohn, akin to our own Mayo Clinic. Within these walls, there are no three shields representing their mission, but the doctors and staff of the BRMH and Krohn Clinic are hospitable beyond belief, chatting in the hallway about career pathways and real-life decisions for a half hour between procedural cases. From the front desk to the back door, the place seems to say, “Welcome, hope you enjoy your stay.”
Within this small-town, interwoven, warm, welcoming environment, my team and I found a perfect platform for learning. We were allowed to assist with outpatient procedures and shadow echocardiograms, colonoscopies, and C-section deliveries, all explained within the context of small-town practice. Though all of the staff were excellent teachers and patient advocates, Dr. Jeff Polzin without a doubt stands out as the most dedicated, patient-centered physician. His knowledge of drug costs, procedural options, and general life in Jackson County, Wisconsin made him an invaluable clinician who was conscious of minimizing cost and improving patient experience and health in an underserved rural area. All of these things combined—from the Energizer Bunny-type lifestyle of Dr. Polzin, to the delicious food and phenomenal clinical experience—made the Rural Wisconsin Selective a defining moment in my medical school career. Dr. Polzin reminded me anew why I want to pursue rural medicine and what a life unrestricted by email can do.
Tony is a second year medical student who hails from Hospers, Iowa. He is interested in rural medicine, community engagement, and recently mountain biking.