Med students get up-close look at potential farm hazards – Shaw Local

When her father became ill a few years ago, interactions with his doctors stood out to Rock Falls native Heather Moser.

“Going through that interaction with him, and really kind of opening my eyes to a few different perspectives, from ER visits to neurology visits and all the things that came with him getting sick, it was really eye-opening for me,” she said. “I want to be a part of it.” I want to be a part of helping people, especially those from rural communities who don’t always have the best access to healthcare.”

Moser is following his dream of practicing medicine in a rural community. The nurse and current medical student is a participant in the Rural Illinois Medical Student Assistance Program who is also enrolled in the rural medical education program at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford.

And to learn more about the health needs of rural residents, especially farmers, Moser joined 26 RMED students on a recent RIMSAP-sponsored “No Harm on the Farm” tour, where two Stephenson County farms served as classrooms for the day .

Tractor overturns. A limb stuck in a drill. The accident with the grain bin. All involve injuries that medical professionals in rural areas can treat. The tour, led by Doug and Dan Scheider, owners of Scheider Farms in Freeport, and Mark Baker, an Orangeville farmer and founder of Stateline Farm Rescue, highlighted farm injuries and illnesses and how to treat them.

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Equally important, students were offered tips on how to talk to farmers.

“In general, farmers don’t like to see you folks,” Doug Scheider told the group. “You have to talk about other things and build relationships of trust.”

Farmers can spend many hours a day at the harvester, which leads to back stress and other problems. Farmers can also have problems with healthy eating and inhaling chemicals, as well as mental health problems.

They may also have hearing damage from being around loud equipment.

“So just in case you’re talking to somebody and you think you’re not getting around, they might not be able to hear you,” Scheider said.

Scheider also serves on the RMED Recruitment and Retention Committee. He and son Dan showed the medical students their dairy farm – a tour they’ve been running for 16 years – with Dan noting he fears there are no medical care options in rural areas due to a lack of professionals. They expressed their gratitude for the students’ interest in rural medicine, and Dan added that his son was born to a graduate of RMED.

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The second stop on the tour was at Baker’s farm, where students participated in a hands-on simulated grain rescue directed by Baker.

Baker, also a firefighter and EMS technician, said his experience makes agricultural accidents seem “more horrific” to him today.

“I think a lot of it is because we’re trying to do more with less help,” he said. “The equipment we use is faster and faster.” So our response time may be less. The average age of farmers is 60 years. We don’t move like we used to.”

Students experienced being both rescuers and victims during a grain trap using a simulator in Baker’s garage.

“We want to try to bring awareness to trauma and how violent some of these injuries are going to be,” Baker said. “So when they go to practice as a doctor, they’ll be ready for it.”

Cheyenne Carr, a first-year medical student from El Paso, said the simulation was an amazing experience, from learning about the different types of injuries that can occur to the rescue logistics.

Carr and Moser are part of RIMSAP, sponsored by the Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois State Medical Society. RIMSAP helps medical school applicants overcome financial need or marginal academic barriers to medical education with a recommendation for medical school admission and/or loan money. In return, students must agree to practice medicine in an approved rural community in Illinois for a specified number of years, depending on their circumstances.

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Mark Meurer, assistant director of recruitment/public relations for RMED, has coordinated the No Harm on the Farm tour for 16 years. He noted that RMED, which incorporates rural health education at the top of its medical school curriculum, has seen an increase in enrollment over the past decade.

“But we’re the only program in the entire country that’s actively going out and recruiting students who have rural backgrounds to go to medical school,” Mehrer said. The program, which is the largest rural medical education program in the country, includes 104 students from 11 states.

“So this is our opportunity for our future rural doctors to get out on the farm and really experience the lifestyle and the culture and the working environment of agriculture in a modern farming environment,” he said.

• Tammie Sloup writes for FarmWeek. This story was distributed through a cooperative project between the Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Press Association. For more food and farming news, visit


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