August 17, 2017

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Medical Student Alex Hartley’s Road to Psychiatry

Alexandra HartleyACMC fourth-year medical student Alexandra Hartley didn’t take the traditional path into medicine like many of her peers. After finishing her undergraduate degree at the University of St. Thomas, she spent five years working with adults with mental illness in the Twin Cities. That was when she realized if she wanted to bring mental health care to underserved areas, she could do more if she went back to school to become a psychiatrist. In 2011 she started medical school at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine in Lewisberg, W.V.

Coming Back Home for Fourth-Year Rotations

Having grown up in the New London-Spicer area, Alexandra loved the small-town charm Lewisberg had to offer. In many ways the tight-knit community reminded her of home. But after three years of medical school, she chose to spend her fourth year on rotation at ACMC in Willmar.

“It’s nice to be home. It’s rare that I walk into the grocery store without visiting with several people I know.  I’ve also seen a number of people I know as patients and am working alongside medical professionals from my hometown,” Alexandra said.

As a psychiatry student, Alexandra takes part in rotations across the clinic just like other ACMC medical students. From infectious disease to ENT and even anesthesiology and general surgery, Alexandra is enjoying being exposed to such a wide range of medicine.

“While I’ve already declared my specialty, it’s really interesting learning more about these different areas of medicine,” she said. “I’m getting a lot of hands-on experience that my peers on rotation at larger facilities won’t have the opportunity to explore.”

Preparing for Her Future

Though Alexandra already knows she wants to return to Minnesota after residency—she recently found out she matched at the University of Minnesota Medical Center in Psychiatry—she’s getting a first-hand look at what practicing medicine in a smaller community would be like.

“I love small towns and the “Minnesota nice” mentality that everyone has. There’s a true sense of community that you don’t find just anywhere even at the clinic,” Alexandra said.  “From the way ACMC medical providers and staff interact with patients and with each other to the business side of medicine, I’ve seen more in the time I’ve been here than I could thought I would. It’s more than you could possibly expect to learn from a book.”

She adds, “You don’t realize the quality of physicians you have until you’ve been somewhere else and experience how other parts of the country practice medicine. ACMC has a lot of outstanding healthcare providers from the nurses and technicians to the physicians.”

Alexandra is grateful for the chance to spend her rotations near the community that means so much to her.

“Everyone has been so amazing—the healthcare providers teaching me, the patients allowing me to learn.,” Alexandra said. “It feels like you have a lot of people cheering you on, and it’s very humbling to know how many people have supported me in my journey to become a psychiatrist.”