Medical students choose Albert Lea to learn

Published 7:04 pm Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The No. 1 pick for three parties brought two medical students to Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin as another step forward in their education.

Owen Tierney and Autumn Krcil are both third-year medical students at Des Moines University. According to OB/GYN Heidi Gaston, preceptor and physician lead for coordinating the students’ rotations, medical students learn for two years in classrooms and two years on the job. Both students chose Albert Lea as their top location.

“We were lucky enough to get our first choices,” Tierney said.

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But the students are the only ones who get a say, Gaston said.

“We got our top choices, too,” she said. The leadership group that reviewed the students’ applications found both Krcil and Tierney were eloquent writers and effective communicators — an important skill for medical professionals, Gaston said — and both applicants spoke of wanting that small-town environment and community.

Krcil chose Albert Lea because she has roots here. She grew up in Albert Lea. Additionally, a smaller hospital can offer different opportunities, she said.

“There are no residents here or anything, so that allows us more opportunities to get hands-on learning because it’s a smaller facility,” she said.

Tierney knew Albert Lea as a stopover point on his way from his hometown of Buffalo to Des Moines for school. His main interest is family medicine.

“Smaller towns or smaller hospitals, they give you a much different experience than a big academic center in, say, Des Moines or the Twin Cities,” he said. “You get to do more, and especially with family medicine, the more you do, the more you find out what you like to do in your practice, and I thought that was very important.”

While here from August to May, Krcil and Tierney are rotating through eight specialties: They will spend one month each in general surgery, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, psychology, internal medicine and emergency medicine; one month each in an elective specialty; and two months in family medicine.

“They’re literally starting a new job every month,” Gaston said. Furthermore, small experiences in these specialities can help students find out what they would like to focus on during residency.

While Tierney came in with an interest in family medicine, Krcil said she went in open to what specialties resonate with her during the experience.

Gaston said having medical students around is beneficial for three groups: students, who are learning, patients, whose experiences help shape the future of medicine, and physicians.

“It’s a really great experience for the physicians who are involved in their education because we are forced to stay on top of our game and understand why we’re doing it and be able to explain why we’re doing something to the next generation of physicians,” she said.

Tierney entered medicine because his family has a strong history of public service, and working as a doctor is something that will help the general public, he said. He enjoys science and getting to know people, and health care checks those boxes for him.

Krcil enjoys caring for others. She previously worked in a nursing home, and she said her interests “snowballed” into pursuing medicine.

“They’re literally paying to spend an opportunity to learn here, and it sounds like they both have incredible interest in service leadership, so we’re really thankful to have them here,” Gaston said.


Autumn Krcil

Age: 26

Livelihood: medical student at Des Moines University

Family: Rhonda Moen

Interesting fact: Autumn Krcil likes to run and read for pleasure


Owen Tierney

Age: 27

Livelihood: medical student at Des Moines University

Family: Kevin and Devonna Tierney

Interesting fact: Owen Tierney enjoys films and camping in the Boundary Waters

About Sarah Kocher

Sarah covers education and arts and culture for the Tribune.

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