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OHSU medical students bike across Oregon to raise awareness of rural health challenges

Three second-year medical students will bicycle a thousand miles around Oregon to help raise awareness of the health care challenges facing rural Oregon. 

Matthew Sperry, Wes Fuhrum and Nathan Defrees will team with community physicians and leaders to discuss possible solutions to the primary care workforce shortage and the importance of health care on the economic development of rural communities.

The students will leave Oregon Health & Science University on Tuesday, July 5, biking first to the coast and working their way toward Reedsport, then continuing on to Prineville and, finally, Enterprise. Friends, family and supporters will give the team a proper send-off at 9 a.m. near the fountain in front of the OHSU School of Medicine.

Physicians hosting the students along the way are: Robbie Law, M.D., Reedsport; Mike Hodulik, M.D., Florence; Bob Holland, M.D., John Day; John Schott, M.D., Baker City; and Liz Powers, M.D., Enterprise.

The trip is co-sponsored by the Oregon Academy of Family Physicians (OAFP), the Oregon Office of Rural Health at OHSU, the Oregon Rural Health Association and the Oregon Area Health Education Centers (AHEC). The coalition is working to raise awareness of the primary care provider shortage in Oregon by working to pass a series of bills during this legislative session, including proposals for loan forgiveness and loan repayment; creating a medical residency network; and developing a visiting doctors program.

“We have a provider shortage today, and it will only worsen as patients and doctors age. Projections show that Oregon will have 5,473 primary care physicians in 2020; but to meet Oregonians’ needs, we must have 6,841. This means we must recruit 1,355 additional physicians in the next 10 years,” says Kerry Gonzales, executive director of the OAFP.

The students will bike from July 5 through Aug. 5. A picnic to celebrate their completion in Enterprise will be held Friday, Aug. 5, at the Enterprise Fairgrounds.

To view the route and follow the students progress on their blog, visit

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