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Rural ND physician finds satisfaction and success

Submitted Photo Dr. Gary Ramage, holding his award from the North Dakota Medical Association, is surrounded by friends.

WATFORD CITY – Dr. Gary Ramage, a physician who has practiced rural, community medicine for McKenzie County Healthcare Systems for over 23 years, was recognized with the Physician Community and Professional Services Award from the North Dakota Medical Association in early October in Bismarck. The award recognizes and honors physicians for outstanding leadership and services to the people of North Dakota and to the profession of medicine.

“Rural North Dakota is one of the coolest places on the planet to practice medicine,” said Ramage in a news release from the North Dakota Department of Health. “I chose rural medicine because it afforded me the opportunity to become part of a community. I was adopted as a community leader and alongside my health care team, we have made a difference in Watford City.”

Studies have shown that physician satisfaction with their practice leads to higher retention rates and community relationships are an important factor, according to the health department. One promising practice to help combat this growing concern is to provide incentives that encourage a physician to stay long enough to build community relationships.

In North Dakota, the health department’s Primary Care Office administers the Health Professional Loan Repayment Program, which provides funds to repay qualifying educational loans up to $150,000 for a five-year service obligation to physicians working in health professional shortage areas.

“Seventy-one percent of physicians who completed their service obligation in the program between 1993-2018 have been retained,” said Bobbie Will with the health department. “And surveys have indicated that 100% of providers working in a defined health care professional shortage area feel strongly connected with their communities and their patients – a huge win for both the health care profession and the community.”

These days, Ramage has begun working with a new generation of potential rural providers as he teaches medical students and residents critical competencies needed to practice in a rural setting.

He continues to maintain a passion for rural medicine and is hopeful his efforts will contribute to new doctor retention in North Dakota, one student at a time.

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