Like most people visiting Kodiak for the first time, Ryan Bosler’s thoughts Tuesday drifted on seeing a big bear. He had his sights set on the largest subspecies of brown bear.

But Bosler, 26, is not a hunter. Before leaving Kodiak, he’d like to see the famed Kodiak bear only to shoot photos that he can show to friends back home.

Bosler is a University of Washington medical student living, working and learning in Kodiak from June 15 to July 10 as part of the UW School of Medicine’s four-week Rural Underserved Opportunities Program.

The program is a four-week, elective immersion experience in community medicine for students between their first and second years of medical school. During their four-week rotation, students live in underserved communities throughout Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho.

The program provides students with an early exposure to the challenges and rewards of practicing primary care medicine in a rural or urban underserved setting. It promotes in students a positive attitude toward serving rural communities.

Washington is the most populous of the states and the only one with its own medical school. The four smaller states participate with hopes that their local students would return home to work as doctors in their rural areas, where medical care is most lacking.

Bosler said family physician Kevin Creelman at North Pacific Medical Center in downtown Kodiak has volunteered to be his clinical instructor. He said the clinic serves a lot of cannery workers and fishermen.

Bosler said rural medicine appeals to him because, unlike working in a bigger city, a broader skill set is required when practicing medicine in remote areas of the country.

“If you practice in rural setting, because of the smaller town, you have the opportunity to form a closer bond with your patients,” he said. “The whole point is to make the community more healthy.”

During his first two weeks in Kodiak, Bosler said he has enjoyed discovering the island’s beauty and its outdoor activities, including fishing for salmon at Buskin and Olds rivers.

“I haven’t had too much luck with king salmon, unfortunately,” he said, but added that he went on a chartered boat about a week ago and caught halibut, rockfish, pacific cod and salmon.

Asked what struck him as the most exciting part of his Kodiak visit, he replied, “I’ve kind of fallen in love with the area and the people.”

“Another thing I like about Kodiak is its diverse population,” he said. “There is a lot of diversity in the island with very unique individuals and the people up here love Alaska and they are not afraid to tell you.”

“I have met some of the most compassionate and caring people during my time driving to and arriving on Kodiak Island,” he said. “Pictures don’t do Alaska justice.”

Bosler is a second-year medical student who worked as EMT on an ambulance for two years prior to medical school. He expressed hopes to have an opportunity to return as a physician and contribute to Kodiak’s diverse and positive community.

“Kodiak reminds me of growing up around the San Juan Islands … with a lot better fishing,” he said, referring to the archipelago in the northwest corner of the contiguous United States between the U.S. mainland and Vancouver Island in Canada.

“Absolutely beautiful views,” he said. “Unfortunately, I haven’t seen a bear yet, but I’d like to see one.”

Roni Toldanes is managing editor of the Kodiak Daily Mirror. Contact him at (907) 486-3227, ext. 622.

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