SHERIDAN — Isaac Hayward will return to his home state of Wyoming in July 2022 to begin his career as an emergency room doctor at Sheridan Memorial Hospital. While choosing Wyoming, and specifically Sheridan, as a location to live, work and raise a family was easy, help through the Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho Medical Education Program through the University of Wyoming motivated the young doctor even more.
Hayward applied for and was accepted into the WWAMI program at UW on his first try after attending undergrad at the university. A Laramie native, Hayward visited Sheridan while playing sports in high school and again while in college, as his sister and brother-in-law lived in the Tongue River Valley. He fell in love with Sheridan County and spent as many of his clinical rotations as he could through the program at SMH.
The WWAMI program provides an opportunity for UW students to earn a doctor of medicine degree from the University of Washington School of Medicine. In addition, WWAMI program students may complete clinical rotations in any of the partnering states. The program organizers’ hope for Wyoming-raised participants is that they return to Wyoming to practice medicine.
“Due to a shortage of health care providers in rural areas, one aim of the WWAMI program is to help meet this workforce need by encouraging graduates to return to Wyoming to practice,” the WWAMI site said.
Throughout the state, 277 Wyoming students who earned degrees through WWAMI are practicing in the state. The average return rate is 65.17%. Six Sheridan County residents are currently in the program.
Dr. Luke Goddard, who graduated from the program after entering the WWAMI program in 2006, served a six-year term on the admissions committee. During his time, he reviewed and helped accept Hayward into the WWAMI program. Now, Goddard will be Hayward’s boss when the medical student finishes his residency in West Virginia next summer. Hayward said Goddard has been an influential part of his educational process since the beginning, when Goddard first interviewed him at UW.
“He’s been very influential in my entire progression through medical school and residency and now into my career,” Hayward said.
SMH does not have an official emergency medicine clinical rotation through the WWAMI program, but when Hayward had a spare minute from his other clinical rotations at SMH, he would spend time in the emergency department to learn about the area of medicine.
SMH has had an open full-time position for a while — Goddard said it was difficult to fill — that was previously filled by two long-term temporary ER doctors. Goddard said SMH ER is fortunate to bring Hayward on next summer.
“(Hayward) went into a residency program in West Virginia and is getting training,” Goddard said. “We’re lucky enough to be able to bring him back (to Wyoming).”
Hayward feels equally as fortunate to return to Sheridan, a place he grew fond of while serving rotations in the area. In addition, his wife earned a job with Sheridan County School District 1 while he was completing rotations. She moved with him to West Virginia for residency and they just had a child and remain eager to return to Sheridan County to work, live and raise a family.
As a bonus in the WWAMI program, Wyoming students who sign a contract securing three years of work in Wyoming after finishing all training receive $300,000 toward their education, leaving only $48,000 for the student to pay for medical school, which translates to $12,000 per year.
“It has such a good loaner payment grant that’s available,” Hayward said. “...It’s just a cherry on top for my wife and I that we want to be back in Wyoming, because regardless or not whether they had that loaner payment, we’d be trying to go back there, so that’s absolutely amazing.”
Hayward will return as a member of the community in July 2022, serving as a model student from the University of Wyoming’s WWAMI program, keeping Wyoming residents employed in Wyoming jobs post-education.