When a family doctor leaves a small town

A doctor checking blood pressure while making a house call for a senior man.   Part of a series depicting a doctor's home visit to an elderly couple.

What happens when small communities lose their doctors? VCU School of Medicine student Paulius Mui is speaking with residents throughout rural Virginia in search of the answer. “Some people are losing their best friend,” he said.

If you are from a small town, you may have a family doctor who has been present at the most important moments of your life: birth, serious illness, a child’s broken arm, a parent’s death. So, what happens to patients when that doctor retires or moves?

That’s what Paulius Mui is trying to uncover. Mui, who is entering his second year in the Family Medicine Scholars Training and Admission Trackin the VCU School of Medicine, has spent considerable time driving to small localities in southwestern and eastern Virginia that have lost their primary care physicians, interviewing residents about the personal impact of these losses. Earlier studies have examined the doctors’ side of this issue, but Mui said there has been little research into patients’ viewpoints.

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