Rhegan McGregor is looking forward to a career in family medicine after she finishes medical school

It took just one shift shadowing family physician Julian Kent Powers, M.D., at Benewah Community Hospital in St. Maries, Idaho, for Rhegan McGregor to realize she made the right decision to become a doctor.

“In one nightshift, I observed a (baby) delivery in one room and a discussion in another room about the pending death of a loved one,” McGregor recalled. “There were tears of joy about a new life beginning in one room, and the other had tears of sorrow for a life coming to an end. As I watched the doctor empathize with each of those patients, I imagined myself as a physician and became overwhelmed with joy in the confirmation of my decision to become a doctor.”

McGregor, who is from St. Maries, is a first-year medical student in the WWAMI Medical Education Program and a recipient of a Rural Initiative Scholarship from the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health. WWAMI is a five-state regional partnership between the University of Washington School of Medicine and the states of Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho (WWAMI). The Idaho WWAMI program allows 80 students – all of whom call the Gem State home – to attend their first two years of medical school at the University of Idaho. Rural Initiative Scholarships are awarded to medical students in the Idaho WWAMI program who demonstrate a commitment to practicing medicine in rural Idaho.

Rhegan McGregor is matched with Orofino and will continue to return to that community as part of her medical education.

McGregor applied and was accepted in the WWAMI TRUST (Targeted Rural Underserved Track) Scholars program to enhance her medical school training. TRUST Scholars are matched with rural communities – she is paired with Orofino – and spend extended time working within the local healthcare system for the duration of medical school. This type of exposure to broad-spectrum medicine in an underserved or rural community is unique to medical school programs.

McGregor’s goal is to practice family medicine after completing a fellowship in obstetrics. She would like to return to a rural community in northern Idaho.

“This specialty allows me to create long-term relationships with patients and continue to follow them throughout their lives,” said McGregor, who completed her undergraduate studies at Lewis-Clark State College. “I hope to deliver and care for multiple generations.”

Rick Thurston, a retired family medicine physician from St. Maries, has known McGregor since he helped deliver her. He is confident in her future success and pleased that her medical training is through his alma mater, Idaho WWAMI. He said family medicine takes a special talent because of the importance of connecting with people.

“Rhegan is smart, motivated and a hard worker,” he said. “All of those things are extremely important, but you have to be able to communicate with all ages and backgrounds about a multitude of issues. You need a keen interest in people to talk and care for them, and Rhegan definitely has that.”

She showed that ability to connect while working as nursing assistant, which she found rewarding. She expected to follow in the footsteps of her mother, a nurse for 26 years, until observing doctors.

“I caught a glimpse of the doctor’s duties and was immediately attracted to the leadership role, the knowledge processed and the scope of practice of these professionals,” she said. “I realized my personal desire is to use my talents — my love for learning, teaching and people — to be that educator, health advocate and familiar face for those in times of need.”