AgriSafe Offers Specialized Training for Rural Clinicians

For Immediate Release: Nov. 10, 2008

Media Contact: Communication Office
Vermont Department of Health
802-863-7281

BURLINGTON -  Before Melanie Lawrence, MD, became a physician she ran a dairy farm in rural Newbury, Vt, with 50 Holstein cows that had to be milked every day regardless of whether she was sick, tired or hurt.

Dr. Lawrence, despite her intimate knowledge of farm life, attended the first session of the AgriSafe training program for rural clinicians in October, and plans to attend the second session, Nov. 13 to 15 at the Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee.

“I’ve experienced – personally – many of the risks these farmers face,” Dr. Lawrence said. “The training was valuable to me because it heightened my awareness of the risks farmers face, and provided me with an opportunity to review the most current data, education and outreach materials.”

The training specifically addresses health and safety concerns of Vermont farmers and their families. The program was developed by the University of Iowa to provide basic information and skills to assist health care professionals in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of agricultural illness and injury. The first session, held in Stowe, drew more than 40 participants, including rural practitioners and representatives from farm organizations.

Gail Auclair, chief executive officer of Little Rivers Healthcare Inc., with offices in East Corinth, Bradford and Wells River, was one of five staff members from the organization to attend the first session. Rural Vermonters and farmers need special attention, she said, because they often remain stoically focused on the farm, rather than their overall health and welfare.

“Often, their needs go unmet because they don’t bother anybody, they work extra long hours, and can go years without a day off,” Auclair said. “Many have health insurance but can only afford high deductible plans, so they are faced with the question: ‘Do I go to a doctor today and get my foot taken care of, or do I milk the cows?’”

Auclair felt it was her obligation, and the duty of her staff, including several physicians who make limited house calls to patients in rural areas, to show their appreciation and dedication to the farm community.

“Part of the beauty of our state is our farmers,” she said. “Attending this training is just one small thing we can do for them.”

The AgriSafe program is co-sponsored by the Vermont Department of Health, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, University of Vermont (UVM) Extension, and the UVM College of Medicine.

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