Elizabeth Dupic’s goal was always to practice family medicine in a small town – like her father and sister before her. After she graduated from the University of Iowa, she found a perfect fit in Storm Lake.
By EMILY NELSON
Elizabeth Dupic spent the summer between her first and second years of medical school at a health care center in Manchester. She returned for a rotation during her third year and again for a four-week elective during her fourth year.
“I was in on the delivery of a baby my first time, and then I got to see that baby as a three-year-old when I was a fourth-year student,” Dupic says. “Experiencing that sort of continuity of care was neat, and it gave me a taste of what it would be like in the future.”
It was exactly the type of experience that the future family medicine physician from Clarion was looking for when she started at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.
Dupic graduated from Iowa in 2016 and now works at Buena Vista Regional Medical Center in Storm Lake.
Dad and sister also doctors
Family medicine runs in the family. Her father, Jon Ahrendsen, and her older sister, Andrea McLoughlin, both practice in their hometown of Clarion. They also were Hawkeyes, with Ahrendsen graduating with his undergraduate degree in 1978 and medical degree in 1982, and McLoughlin with her medical degree in 2013.
Ahrendsen says he’s proud that his daughters followed in his footsteps – both in medicine and practicing in a rural area.
“I think that they feel like they had a good experience growing up in a small town,” Ahrendsen says. “I didn’t do anything to push them into those decisions. They made them themselves.”
Dupic says she wanted to be some sort of physician for as long as she could remember. In middle school, it was a child psychiatrist.
“Growing up watching my dad practice and seeing the respect that people had for him in the community was a big deal for me,” Dupic says.
Moving to Storm Lake in 2019 was a homecoming of sorts for Dupic. She received her undergraduate degree in biology from Buena Vista University, where she also played basketball for a year and ran track for four years.
Iowa was Dupic’s first choice for medical school. Along with the benefit of in-state tuition, she says she appreciated the opportunities Iowa offered to train in rural health care and the ability to do her rotations in the state, where she planned to practice after graduation.
After being waitlisted, Dupic spent the year helping the immigrant population in Storm Lake navigate the health care system and teaching English.
Dupic says two experiences especially stand out about her time at the Carver College of Medicine. The first was participating in the Medical Education Community Orientation (MECO), which sends medical students to communities across Iowa for the summer between their first and second years. There, they are introduced to the scope of health care in the community; the way in which it contributes to the structure and function of the community; and the cultural, political, economic and environmental determinants of health in the community.
During her fourth year, Dupic worked for nine months in a continuity-of-care clinic at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics.
“It allowed me to practice what it would be like to manage my own patient panel,” Dupic says.
Dupic says she always planned to practice in a rural area after graduation.
“I liked living in a rural community and so, partly, that is what I wanted for myself and my family,” Dupic says. “But I also saw, growing up and then later working with families in Storm Lake, how beneficial it was to have good, high-quality physicians in communities like those, and I wanted to help fill that gap.”
As for practicing family medicine, that was an easy decision.
“You get to care for entire families and help them through the transitions of life. It’s cradle-to-grave medicine,” Dupic says. “I also was looking forward to the variety of care I’d get to provide. I have something different walk in the door every day. You never know what you’re going to see.”
Dupics are both Beavers
She and her husband, Kyle Dupic, met at Buena Vista University, and both were happy to return to Storm Lake.
“I like that it’s a rural farming community that also has a large immigrant population,” Dupic says. “So, there’s a lot of variety in the people, and that was one of the things that I was looking for. Plus, it makes for really good restaurants. We’ve got some of the best Thai food in the state here.”
“I get to practice full-spectrum family medicine,” Dupic says. “In some places, the family doctors are only outpatient and they don’t do OB. But I get to do it all. I get to see my patients in the hospital and deliver babies. It’s a perfect balance of managing a wide variety of patient problems and having support from nearby specialists.”