Medical School Alumna Shares Experience as Small Town Doctor

On summer afternoons, when she wraps up long work shifts with the Lakewood Health System, Kaitlyn Schoeck, MD (’14) is out on the lake in a boat watching the sunset. Her two-year-old golden retriever and her husband often join her as she unwinds and connects back with nature. 

“During winter months, my husband coaches basketball for Brainerd High School, so I’ve become a regular in the gym,” she said. “When we find some time off, we love to travel and explore new places."

Born and raised in International Falls, Minn., Dr. Schoeck admires her mother for helping her shape a good life and said, “She always encouraged me to chase my dreams and showed me how to work hard for what I want.”

Dr. Schoeck did just that by pursuing her dream of medicine. As a 2011 biomedical sciences alumna from the University of Minnesota Duluth, Dr. Schoeck was thrilled to learn that she was accepted into the University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth Campus. She graduated as a doctor of medicine in 2014 and headed into residency at St. John’s Family Medicine. 

“I loved the idea of being a part of the University of Minnesota but with a smaller, more personal college experience,” she said. “That want for a smaller, more family feel was important to me. It was a bonus that Duluth was such a great place to live.”

While reminiscing about her experiences in Duluth, she gives credit to her classmates and how they made the passage through medical school a positive one. 

“A bond is shared with your classmates that you can’t really explain unless you’re a part of it. The long days of learning, studying, test-taking—it pushes your limits,” she said.

Even though the stress was high, Dr. Schoeck also notes that her classmates became friends who then became so much like family. When spending four years together, it created a tie that continues to this day, no matter where her classmates have landed.

As her career has progressed from residency to full-time practice, Dr. Schoeck embraces the constant change that fills her days. 

“I’ll start off delivering a baby, and then I’ll care for a variety of patients in clinic, rounds in the nursing home and enroll a patient in hospice for end-of-life care. Then, other days, I’m in the emergency room or caring for hospital inpatients. No day is the same,” she said.

During the past two years, Dr. Schoeck has connected and partnered with patients. She finds joy in watching babies become toddlers, celebrates when a patient’s diabetes improves and enjoys hearing family members reminisce about a patient who has passed away. 

“Patients truly open themselves to me, and I feel like part of their family alongside them in the journey of their life,” she said.

When Dr. Schoeck considers why she was drawn to the rural Midwest and to rural medicine, she readily talks about the past. 

“I grew up in rural Minnesota. I only knew rural medicine. My mom works on the business side in healthcare. I knew the physicians and her team long before I became a doctor,” she said. “As I entered medicine, I quickly realized that being able to practice truly full-spectrum family medicine as how I envisioned it was only possible in a rural setting.” 

At the same time, Dr. Schoeck believes that rural Minnesota continues to need more providers who can give patients high-quality care close to home. She said, “We are so lucky in Minnesota to have access to excellent healthcare, but that’s only possible if high-quality physicians continue to serve our state.”

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