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Philanthropy at Work: Mark Deutchman

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Mark Deutchman, far left, celebrates the graduation of Rural Track students in May 2015.

“Philanthropy at Work” is a series that highlights CU faculty and staff whose generosity has made a positive impact. To suggest a profile idea, contact Melanie M. Sidwell.

Mark Deutchman, MD, knows the many hats worn by rural physicians. The population of the town (at least according to the sign outside the city limit) where he practiced family medicine for 12 years in rural southwest Washington State was about 2,000 residents; however, his clinic had about 10,000 patient charts, thanks to the logging and orchards industries which drew people, especially migrant farm workers, to the remote area.

In addition to delivering babies, performing surgeries and caring for every kind of patient from newborn to elderly, he also was director of the ambulance services for two counties, served on the volunteer fire department and was part of the emergency planning team for the area when Mount St. Helens erupted 40 miles away. Now, as a Professor of Family Medicine at the CU School of Medicine, Deutchman is committed to supporting scholarships for medical students who intend to work in rural communities.

“Leaving that town and practice was a very difficult decision, and one that I made only to go into full-time teaching with the goal of preparing a new generation of family physicians for rural practice,” he said.

Deutchman founded the Rural Track at the School of Medicine at CU Anschutz in 2005 with the goal of increasing the number of graduates who enter and remain in rural clinical practice. He serves as director of the Rural Track, associate dean for Rural Health, and director of the Colorado Area Health Education Center (AHEC) program.

“Most of the students in the Rural Track have had a significant rural experience and have a desire to return to these areas to live and work. They are smart, versatile and eager to be engaged in the community,” Deutchman said.

Two-thirds of Colorado’s counties are considered rural and are short of doctors, so there is great need for physicians educated and trained to treat these populations and address their distinct needs, Deutchman said.

the CU School of Medicine has an MD class size of 184, and about 20 of those students are in the Rural Track, which has been funded by grants from foundations and other organizations including the Colorado Trust, The Colorado Health Foundation, Caring for Colorado, the Dean of the School of Medicine and private individuals. The Rural Track provides students with additional seminars and workshops on rural health topics, sends them to rural areas for some of their clinical clerkships and brings practicing rural physicians in to share their perspectives.

A past supporter of student scholarships, Deutchman began to give to a scholarship fund to benefit students in the Rural Track. In addition to his personal gifts, Deutchman informed his 200 current and former students that he would match any of their gifts up to $100. Deutchman would like to build an endowment to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Rural Track program.

“My goal is to get them to think about giving back to the program they were in and basically get them into the habit now,” he said.  “I want to support those medical students who are interested in rural practice and help them continue along the path to go into practice in underserved areas.”

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