For nearly a month, a room at Pratt Regional Medical Center has been home and Pratt Internal Medicine Group the classroom for a student completing a required part of his education at University of Kansas School of Medicine.
By the time he was 14, after his father died from meningitis, Kundai Tanganyika, a native of Zimbabwe, Africa, knew he wanted to be a doctor. He came to the United States at age 18, completed an associate's degree in respiratory therapy at Johnson County Community College, undergraduate work at KU and is now a fourth year medical student, in Pratt for a month-long rotation with Dr. Alan Pribil.
The Rural Preceptorship Program was established by the Kansas Legislature in 1951 to ensure that Kansas-trained physicians were equipped to serve the state's substantial rural population. Tanganyika hasn't made plans yet relating to where he will practice, but is very interested in volunteering for Doctors Without Borders, which sends physicians to Third World countries. He has already signed up for an international rotation for gastroenterology next February in South Africa.
His experiences with Pribil and other physicians will be valuable in that aspect of his career, because of the variety of cases seen in rural, primary care clinics.
"Rural medicine will give me a good tool for Third World countries," Tanganyika said. "It's a different type of medicine, more patient-oriented. Dr. Pribil has a good relationship with all his patients. He knows them, they invite him to go fishing," he added, with a smile.
Pratt Internal Medicine Group gets frequent calls from KU to provide hands-on training, Pribil said. They can't accept all requests, but he believes the program is good for Pratt.
"I think we usually get a pretty positive report from students," he said. They (professors at KU) tell students past experiences here are good. There's a good mix of illnesses and conditions. It's interesting for students."
PIMG's newest physician, Dr. Aaron Zook, returned to Pratt after serving a preceptorship with the clinic.
Tanganyika began his rotation on Aug. 27 and will leave on Sept. 21. He has done everything he might do as a beginning physician, including seeing patients independently, but with Dr. Pribil looking over his shoulder.
"The goal is to give him as many experiences as we can," Pribil explained. "If other docs have interesting cases, they'll come get him."
Tanganyika speaks positively about his experiences here.
"Pratt has an inviting type of energy," he said. "(Coming here) felt like going home. It's a nice town, I could definitely see myself in a town like Pratt."
Although they have been busy at work, Pribil has tried to introduce his student to some elements of rural culture. They drove to Hudson, looking forward to a home-cooked fried chicken dinner, only to discover the cafe owners had closed up to go to the state fair. It's been suggested they visit the sale barn, and they've talked about going dove hunting, but haven't actually done it.
Page 2 of 2 - In comparison to other states, Kansas has a high rate of retaining the physicians it trains. The required rural preceptorship probably has an impact, Pribil said. In addition, a lot of KU students are Kansas residents.