May 3, 2022, 8:45 a.m. David Mitchell — Morgan Weiler knew she was interested in family medicine, but as a first-year medical student she wasn’t sure exactly what a career in the specialty would look like.
That changed during the break between her first and second years at the University of Kansas School of Medicine for two reasons: one, she spent two months with family physicians in rural Kansas; and two, she attended her first National Conference of Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students.
“I was in Plainville, Kan., and I had the opportunity to follow along with a few pretty neat doctors,” said Weiler, who recently matched with the Via Christi family medicine residency in Wichita. “We delivered babies, we did stress tests, we worked in the ER and did all sorts of things. I thought, ‘This is what I want to do.’”
Weiler, who grew up in the Kanas City metro area, spent eight weeks with Jen Brull, M.D., in Plainville and Beth Oller, M.D., and Mike Oller, M.D., in Stockton, Kan. Both small towns, which are about 15 miles apart, have fewer people than Weiler’s suburban high school.
“I loved not only the medicine, but also the welcoming environment in their community,” Weiler said. “I was invited to Fourth of July parties, old cars show and things like that. I was welcomed with open arms. During my time, I noticed they were 100% dedicated to their patients, but also to me. They took the time out of their busy summer to help give me a wonderful education. Their passion for teaching was out of this world.”
Weiler’s experience was possible through the KU School of Medicine’s Summer Training Option in Rural Medicine, which is an elective rotation offered to students from all three KU campuses after their first years.
Weiler said the STORM program was transformative.
“Dr. Brull would be like, ‘OK, Morgan, there’s a skin lesion. Let’s see what we can do,’” Weiler said. “She would let me work to my comfort level. Going into my second year of medical school, my knowledge wasn’t super strong, and my confidence was low working through the clinical scenarios. She helped me work through some of those insecurities and gain a sense of confidence in the patient encounters.”
Weiler also found time that summer to attend National Conference back home in Kansas City. The event drew more than 5,000 people, including nearly 1,900 medical students and representatives from hundreds of residency programs.
“I went and took a look at the Expo Hall, and I was awestruck,” she said. “I’ve been in the Convention Center a bunch of times, but I had never seen that many people there. With all the residency programs that were there, it was really impressive and really cool. You could feel the energy in the room. Everyone was excited, and it was a very joyful moment.”
Weiler said she was inspired by the event’s speakers, and she got hands-on experience during workshops.
Unfortunately, that was the last time National Conference was held in person before the pandemic struck. The event was held virtually in 2020 and 2021, but it is scheduled to return to an in-person format July 28-30 in Kansas City, Mo. Weiler will be right in the middle of things as student chair of the conference.
Weiler said that although the virtual conferences were successful, there’s something special about an in-person event.
“One of the goals for this year’s conference is to replicate the energy I felt a couple years ago,” she said. “I would love for every student and resident who walks through those doors to feel it. I feel like the people who show up and experience National Conference are super inspired. Then they go back to their colleagues and talk about their experience and what they learned about family medicine, and that might spark someone else’s interest.”
Weiler said this year’s event will cover a broad range of career, clinical, policy and leadership issues and also will feature the student and resident congresses.
“We wanted enough breadth to pique the interest of everyone, and also to show that family medicine physicians care about all of these things,” she said.
After her first National Conference, Weiler was appointed to serve as the AAFP Student Representative to the AMA’s Medical Student Section. She also has served the Academy as a student alternate delegate and student delegate to the Congress of Delegates, and as a member of the Commission on Education.
As a participant in the Kansas Medical Student Loan program, she plans to practice in rural Kansas after she completes her training.
“I want to do rural, full-spectrum family medicine,” she said. “I’ve gotten a lot of really good rural experience during my clinical years here in Wichita. I’ve been all over Kansas.”
Things came full circle for Weiler a few months ago when she returned to Plainville as a fourth-year student.
“A lot of the nurses and the physicians remembered me, but my comfort level with what they allowed me to do and just the entire environment had changed,” she said. “I remembered the emotions of walking in there that first summer with no clinical experience and going in and talking to a patient and thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh. This is so hard.’ I went back three years later, and I thought, ‘I’ve learned all this stuff.’ I felt like, ‘Wow, I am really prepared to do this,’ and I think it was cool for both Dr. Ollers and Dr. Brull to see that, too.”