Northwest Adventists have a long history of providing quality higher education in southeast Washington. Walla Walla General Hospital (WWGH) has joined that educational legacy by providing clinical education for third-year medical students from the Pacific Northwest University (PNWU) College of Osteopathic Medicine in Yakima, Wash.
This program, which began in 2013, benefits both the medical students and their patients at WWGH. During their clinical rotations in the Walla Walla Valley, the medical students are paired with physicians in the area to gain experience in pediatrics, internal medicine, emergency medicine and more.
The medical students come from a variety of backgrounds. For some, the Adventist Health mission and healing environment have been a new and unique experience.
Elizabeth McMurtry, who practices emergency medicine at WWGH and previously coordinated the PNWU program in Walla Walla, points out Adventist Health’s understanding of preventive health care and how diet impacts health fits well with osteopathic medicine.
“The focus on vegetarianism is unique in medicine,” says McMurtry. The PNWU medical students appreciate learning about how health maintenance and disease prevention start with diet.
PNWU medical student Priya Panneerselvam chose Walla Walla for her clinical rotation site because she knew she’d get a lot of hands-on experience directly with physicians. She hasn’t been disappointed.
“Being one of four medical students at this hospital has been a huge blessing. WWGH has provided me with numerous opportunities, including assisting with surgeries and procedures,” says Panneerselvam.
She’s also been delighted with the culture surrounding her work at WWGH. “The hospital has welcomed us with open arms, keeping us in the loop about holiday parties and fun events,” she says.
Panneerselvam has noticed more than camaraderie. “I love the Adventist Health culture,” she says. “I love walking into the hospital and being greeted by banners with the mission of restoring peace, hope and health.”
Cindy Tran, another PNWU medical student, chose Walla Walla because of its rural setting and clinical opportunities. Once she arrived at WWGH, she discovered a hospital filled with kindness — “from the CEO and CFO to the staff and volunteers,” she says.
“The hospitality that I’ve experienced made it feel like home,” Tran adds. “My preceptors are all excellent physicians, great in both medicine and as individual persons, whom I would like to become when I ‘grow up.’”
The hospital also benefits from the addition of medical students to its staff. At first, some patients wonder why there is an extra person in the exam room. “But the more they talk, the more patients realize this is a collaboration between patients and medical students,” McMurtry explains. Because the medical students are especially focused and eager to learn, their questions often flesh out helpful information — like lifestyle complications — early in the examination and diagnosis cycle.
These medical students help WWGH provide personalized care to patients, while the hospital gives the students a glimpse into Adventist Health’s unique focus on whole-person health. This partnership is another way WWGH is demonstrating the human expression of the healing ministry of Jesus Christ.