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Farm tour offers medical field students a look into agricultural hazards

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UIC College of Medicine Rockford students step out of the classroom and onto the farm to gain a new perspective on their future patients.

At the annual “No Harm on the Farm” event in Freeport, students had the chance to experience the working environment that makes farming one of the most dangerous professions in the nation.

All hands were on deck as first responders rush to help in a tractor rollover. But in Friday’s case, it was all pretend.

“Being here helps us understand what kind of people we’re going to be treating one day,” said UIC-Rockford Rural Medical Education student Kailyn Baalman. “[It helps us understand] some of the problems that [farmers] may face.”

The tour also included a grain bin rescue. Some students say it offered them a different perspective into the hazards farmers face every day.

“The rural community is especially very underserved,” explained UIC-Rockford Rural Medical Education student Matthew Wendell. “I’m from a rural community, I have many relatives who are farmers and alike.”

While students didn’t perform any medical procedures at the tour, UIC director of rural medical education program John Plescia says it shows students how potential injuries they treat could’ve happened.

“The injuries that happen on a farm are going to require a team approach to care,” said Plescia. “It’s going to be a pharmacist, a physician, a nurse, a doctor/nurse practitioner to be working on these patients together.”

UIC director of the rural pharmacy program Heidi Olson says that team effort will go a long way to offer the best treatment to those in agriculture.

“It’s nice to know maybe what different questions they need to ask,” said Olson. “A pharmacist might not see a patient right after it but they might come into the pharmacy a little later.”

Baalman says experience has now given her a deeper sense of the type of work she hopes to do one day.

“[It’s helpful] being able to see people actually trapped in a grain bin and being able to see a tractor roll over,” said Baalman. “At least for me, it’s getting me out of the classroom and seeing ‘Wow, I can make a difference one day’.”

This was the 13th year for the tour. University officials say the event has expanded through the years as interest from students grows.

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