Locations: St. Francis, Kansas
Outreach Dept: RHES
Program: Kansas Bridging Plan
Kansas Recruitment Center
Overcoming stereotypes women face as physicians can be hard, but two rural Kansas women are holding their own and work together to run the Cheyenne County Clinic in St. Francis, Kan.
Mary Beth Miller, MD attended the University of Kansas School of Medicine and graduated from the Smoky Hill Family Medicine Residency Program, whose residents gain experience in rural medicine. She then began her career at the Cheyenne County Clinic and ran the clinic for more than nine years before joined by fellow alum, Rebecca Allard, MD. Dr. Allard grew up on a farm outside Smith Center, Kan. and like Dr. Miller attended the KU School of Medicine and graduated from the Smoky Hill Family Medicine Residency Program in June 2007.
Today both Dr. Allard and Dr. Miller are running the show together at Cheyenne County Clinic. Each of them works around 60 hours on a good week. But that can go up to as many as 100 hours for a busy week when the hospital is full.
Dr. Allard says, as females it’s hard to break out of the stereotypes that people have for physicians. Some feel a doctor is a man’s job, because in the past many doctors were male. More and more women are studying to become doctors and breaking out of the stereotypes people have is hard. However, with the high demand for health care in rural areas, patients have to adapt to what is available to them.
“When I first got here, I did feel the older men in the rural area didn’t look at me as a doctor because I was female,” said Dr. Miller.
She says not many patients called her “doctor” when she first started. They referred to her as “Ms. Miller,” while they called her physician assistant, who was male, “doctor.”
Dr. Allard had it a little easier when she started because the community was used to a female doctor by then. However, she said it can still be difficult convincing a man to see a female.
Both Dr. Allard and Dr. Miller’s family-lives are extremely important to them and it can be a hard balance when working in the medical field. Dr. Allard says she makes it a point to not take work home. She and her husband enjoy trap-shooting when they get the opportunity and Dr. Allard goes horse-back riding with her daughter. As a rural physician it can be difficult to find time away. In some cases, such as a trauma situation, they need as many hands as they can get.
Dr. Miller has three kids and before Dr. Allard started at Cheyenne County Clinic, Dr. Miller was the only physician for nine years. She said it did take away from her family a little and it would have been easier if she had had a partner, but Dr. Miller still found time to be with her children. She has enjoyed being involved in her children’s sports activities and is a faithful KU Jayhawk fan.
“It’s important to have a family relationship so we try to do a lot together,” said Dr. Miller.
Dr. Allard says it’s hard on the husbands as well. Many times female physicians are primary source of income for their household. Most men of this generation grew up feeling they had to be the breadwinner. Many husbands are stepping up and taking the role of child care provider and homemaker.
Both physicians feel there are advantages to being female physicians as well. Dr. Allard feels women have more empathy toward their patients. Women are by nature more nurturing and so it just makes sense. Dr. Miller feels women are better multi-taskers and take their time. She feels women physicians can look at the whole picture and really listen to and talk with their patients. Also female physicians give women the opportunity of seeing a female physician for their yearly exams. Many female patients feel more comfortable when they know their physician can relate.
The role of a female physician is getting easier as more women enter the field, but Dr. Allard says it’s important to have the support of friends and family.
“It’s a hard row to hoe, and it’s a difficult road if you don’t have a good support system,” said Dr. Allard.
Dr. Allard took part in the Kansas Bridging Plan (KBP) and Kansas Recruitment Center (KRC). Physicians who participate in the Kansas Bridging Plan agree to practice medicine full-time in a self-selected rural community for 36 continuous months upon completion of their primary care training program in exchange for loan forgiveness. The Kansas Recruitment Center (KRC), a statewide program assists health care providers in finding the right practice opportunity in Kansas. KRC works closely with Kansas communities to provide comprehensive recruitment and retention services.