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C of I students thrive in Stanley medical internship

What began as a simple way for a son to assist his mother for college credit has grown into a valuable pipeline for College of Idaho medical interns. During the past 35 years, the Salmon River Clinic in rural Stanley  has hosted more than 100 C of I students with aspirations of entering medical school—and the program shows no signs of slowing down.

“I love it,” says physician assistant Amy Klingler, who has worked with C of I interns for nearly a decade at the clinic. “I look forward to the interns coming every year, and I’m always really impressed with the quality of students we get.”

The internship program began in 1979, shortly after the clinic was established by Marie Osborne. Her son, a C of I student, already had planned on assisting his mother during the clinic’s opening summer and asked his professors if he could apply that time towards internship credit. The positive experience Osborne’s son had convinced her to hire C of I interns on an annual basis. The internship has become so vital to the clinic that an apartment was built to house two student interns every summer season.

This summer, the clinic is hosting two biology majors with medical school aspirations: senior Dannen Wright and junior Matt Goodwin. In addition to observing Klingler as she works, the interns act as nurses, taking patients’ vitals, researching patient medical history and running tests on samples in the attached labs. All of these duties provide the two interns with direct experience many students are unable to obtain until medical school.

In addition, both Wright and Goodwin have been trained as emergency medical responders (EMRs), which allows them to participate in ambulance rides and provide basic care in emergency situations. Goodwin said that the most exciting experience of his internship to date was driving Stanley’s ambulance during a call. “That was the coolest thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “As part of our EMR class, we were allowed to drive it around the block, which was totally awesome.”

The daily contact the interns have with patients is one of the most important aspects of the experience for Goodwin, who first learned about the internship through his friend, C of I alumnus and current clinic employee Elynn Smith ’13. “Being up here in Stanley exposes you to the practical side of medicine, the social side,” Goodwin said.  “I would like to go to medical school, so I think understanding the social side as well as the academic side of medicine is a very important step.”

Wright, a 2014 recipient of the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship, is spending her second summer interning at the clinic. She is grateful for the positive experiences the internship has given her. “I have garnered real-life experience interacting with patients directly as well as the skills to do so effectively and compassionately,” she said. “Most importantly, I have realized how I can bridge my strong research experience to the clinical practice of medicine.”  

Since the start of the internship program, many Salmon River Clinic interns have gone on to great success in medical fields. C of I biology instructor Dr. Ann Koga, who serves as the faculty advisor for the interns, has watched several former students go on to prestigious medical schools. “I’m starting to see students I knew earlier in my career who are done with their four years of medical school and their four years of residency and are now in practice,” Koga said. “And they still think back very fondly on their experience in Stanley and see it as very formative.”  

The future looks bright for this year’s interns. Wright has wanted to become a physician since the age of 6, and Goodwin has developed an interest in rural medicine as a result of his time in Stanley. Thanks to their experiences at the Salmon River Clinic, these two C of I standouts are better-equipped than ever to chase their medical dreams.

Founded in 1891, The College of Idaho is the state’s oldest private liberal arts college. It has a century-old tradition of educating some of the most accomplished graduates in Idaho, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three Marshall Scholars, and another 12 Truman and Goldwater Scholars. The College is located on a beautiful campus in Caldwell, Idaho. Its distinctive PEAK curriculum challenges students to attain competencies in the four knowledge peaks of the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field, enabling them to graduate with an academic major and three minors in four years. For more information on The College of Idaho, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.