A family medicine physician in Rupert, ID has been selected as the beneficiary of the Primary Care Initiative’s (PCI) medical education debt repayment award — the second physician to receive assistance from the PCI’s fundraising efforts.
The Primary Care Initiative, a non-profit foundation that launched in August 2022, was established in partnership with the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine and Blue Cross of Idaho. The PCI aims to encourage doctors to practice in rural and medically-underserved areas of Idaho through scholarships and medical education debt repayments. The second recipient of the PCI’s medical education debt incentive is Dr. Christopher M. Burns, MD.
Dr. Burns serves as a family medicine physician at Minidoka Medical Center’s Rural Health Clinic in Rupert, ID. A native of Springville, UT, Dr. Jones completed his undergraduate education at Brigham Young University and earned his Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree from Indiana University School of Medicine. Afterward, he completed his graduate medical education in family medicine through Indiana University School of Medicine – Muncie and IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital.
“My wife is from Springdale, which is out near Declo, just a little east of Burley,” Dr. Burns said. “We made the decision to come back out this way. We really wanted to be back in the mountains, back with family, and we felt like it was a good choice.”
Minidoka Medical Center’s Rural Health Clinic (RHC) offers family practice and internal medicine care to residents in the Magic Valley, and is affiliated with Minidoka Memorial Hospital.
“It’s a really great resource for our community and we’ve been helping with access to care,” Dr. Burns said. “It’s a growing practice and we’ve added a number of physicians and providers within the last 12 to 18 months, so they’re able to take on new patients.”
As a family medicine physician, Dr. Burns cares for people of all ages, allowing him to practice the full spectrum of medicine. On any given day, Dr. Burns can see a toddler, a teenager, and an elderly patient, all in the same day. That variety, coupled with the community’s charm, are two reasons why Dr. Burns enjoys practicing rural medicine.
“People who live in rural areas want to have a more personal, tighter relationship with their doctor, and I think that’s one of the beauties of rural medicine,” Dr. Burns said. “Definitely one of the challenges of rural medicine is not having specialists readily accessible, but that opens the door to us rural physicians to practice the full scope of what we can as family doctors. It pushes us to do all that we can for our patients, which I think makes rural medicine interesting.”
Through the foundation’s fundraising efforts, PCI made a $100,000 contribution to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s Rural Health Care Access Fund. As a result, Dr. Burns will be provided with $25,000 per year for four years for student loan repayment.
“Physician recruitment and retention is a top priority in rural communities,” said Gina Pannell, Bureau Chief of the Bureau of Rural Health and Primary care. “This donation is an excellent public-private partnership that supports Dr. Burns so he can continue to dedicate his time and talent to serving rural Idaho.”
Idaho and its rural communities face a chronic shortage of physicians. In fact, the Gem State ranks 45th in the nation for the number of primary care physicians per capita, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges’ 2021 State Physician Workforce Data Report.