2023 Moskol Award Recipient: Dr. Dave Schmitz
David Schmitz, MD, adds a leadership quality which sets him apart from previous Moskol Leadership Award recipients: he is a Family Medicine physician. In fact, his first interaction with 3RNET was when he was in medical school!
“I remember receiving a pre-stamped post card from 3RNET, where I checked off the boxes of states I was interested in,” he shared.
Since that first interaction with 3RNET, Dave’s support of and connection to 3RNET has been both longstanding and unwavering.
Dave grew up in a rural community outside of Buffalo, New York. He knew he wanted to do something in the science field but was leaning toward veterinary science until his eleventh grade chemistry teacher encouraged him to pursue medicine. He chose family medicine because, “I wanted to be a family doctor because I felt that would give me the most skills to help the most people. I think about how my skillset can help people. I have a specific memory of helping my grandfather get ready for work. I was taking his lunchbox out of the musty closet and he told me, ‘if you love your work you’ll never work a day in your life,’ and that’s always been the goal.”
After medical school, Dave completed his residency training at the Family Medicine Residency in Boise, Idaho. He chose this residency because he liked that the program required rural rotations. Having both grown up in a rural community and participating in rural-focused educational opportunities, Dave knew providing care to a rural community was where he wanted to practice medicine.
Interestingly, Dave shared it wasn’t exactly easy to get his first job as a Family Medicine physician, and his first job didn’t qualify for federal loan repayment. Despite these initial challenges, Dave knew the rural community in Idaho he was working in was well worth it, and he stayed there until he was recruited to work under his mentor, Ted Epperly, at his former residency.
“When I came back the residency where I had trained to work as rural faculty, Ted allowed me to grow there in a way that was very unique,” Dave shared.
In addition to training future Family physicians, Dave was delegated to assist with the initial Rural Training Track (RTT) cooperative agreement. Alongside Dr. Randy Longenecker, Dave helped with all the consults provided to rural training programs during the first six years of the initial RTT agreement.
Ted was also supportive of Dave when the opportunity presented itself for Dave to create the Community Apgar Project alongside Boise State University researcher Dr. Ed Baker.
“I was introduced to Ed through Mary Sheridan, (who was at the time the Idaho State Office of Rural Health Director). Mary and Laura Rowen, also at the SORH, were supporters of both Apgar and 3RNET. They were so instrumental in those early days of Apgar. I was interested in scope of practice, and with their support we were able to first present our research findings at a state level. From there, we were able to grow the program to a national level. We completed the CAP program in North Dakota, and were able to share these results with NOSORH, NRHA, and 3RNET,” Dave reflected.
The first Community Apgar Project research was completed in 2008. Today, it’s been done in many states, most recently in Pennsylvania through a partnership with the Pennsylvania SORH, the University of North Dakota, and 3RNET!
“Even the first study we did in Idaho was analogous to 3RNET. There’s a synergy and feedback loop between medical education and workforce – how to place people,” Dave said.
“In those early days, Tim Skinner would often be presenting on 3RNET when I was presenting at conferences around the nation. Years later, Mike Shimmens and Mark Barclay gave the Community Apgar Project so much support at 3RNET. And today, Stacy Kusler (North Dakota 3RNET Network Coordinator) is the most experienced person with CAP in the entire country,” Dave added.
Now the Chair of Family and Community Medicine at the University of North Dakota, Dave says,
“I’m fortunate to be where a majority of the students have a similar attitude. Yes, they want a job and want to make a living, but they want to do it in a way where they can make a difference.”
Dave’s dedication to and passion for rural are obvious and contagious. In closing, he shared with us part of why rural health means so much to him.
“The unseen strength in rural communities. Rural communities are full of people who care for each other. As long as we’ve got that, I feel like that is the ‘safety net’ and backbone of people struggling together to do the right thing with limited resources and against the odds. There’s no place to do that except in a community like that. That makes rural really special.”