University of Idaho graduate writes a prescription for optimism

A new University of Idaho graduate from Boise aims for medical school and service to Idahoans.


“Medicine is able to help a lot of people,” Joie Florence says.

BARRY KOUGH — Lewiston Tribune

One chapter of Joie Florence's education at the University of Idaho has come to an end. Another is about to begin.

The Boise native received her bachelor's degree in exercise science and health during Saturday's commencement ceremonies at the Kibbie Dome. Next she will start working on her doctor of medicine degree from the University of Washington School of Medicine this fall. She's enrolled as part of the Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho (WWAMI) regional medical education program, which allows her to stay in Moscow for her first year of training. After that, she'll move to Seattle to complete her degree at the UW.

She has been a health education intern and volunteer for the Snake River Community Clinic in Lewiston. Her ultimate goal is to move to the Lewiston area or rural Idaho and work as a physician.

"I may land in Lewiston and lend my services as a physician to the (clinic)," she said. "If not Lewiston, I will serve another rural Idaho community. This clinic and many others are always in need of care providers. I will help fulfill this need."

Florence is the daughter of Sam and Anna Mae Florence of Boise and a 2009 graduate of Bishop Kelly High School.

"I am well-known for my optimism," she said. "I do not ignore the tragedies of the world - I just choose to see the opportunities without dwelling on the setbacks."

Florence answered some questions about her plans and about the health benefits of hope:

Q: We hear a lot about a shortage of doctors in Idaho, particularly in the rural parts of the state. What makes you want to return here to practice once you're a licensed physician?

A: Largely, it's the problem that you just talked about that kind of called me to this area. I love small-city life and know I'll be happy in a little town. But the real reason I'm pursuing it is because I want to help, and finding a place that needs physicians is the best way I can help. … I'm biased toward Idaho; it's always been my home. And it's the small towns in Idaho that have a special place in my heart, so that's where I'm going to serve as a doctor.

What has been the most rewarding part of your time as a volunteer at the Snake River Community Clinic?

There are a lot of extremely rewarding things about being there. (Volunteering) really is the highlight of my weeks. But I would say the best part of it is the connections I've made with the patients. They're incredible people with amazing stories. I know that I'm helping as a volunteer, and I'm looking forward to what I can do once I'm a doctor.

What do you expect will be the most daunting challenge you'll face in medical school?

I guess just the limitations in medicine are what is going to be frustrating. … In a perfect world everything is curable. The most difficult part is seeing people and knowing there are limitations to medicine and that some people won't get better. … But what will get me through that struggle is knowing there are plenty of patients who there are success stories for.

Washington State University is looking to create a medical school in Spokane. Would you choose to continue your education there, rather than Seattle, if that were a possibility at this point?

I did kind of look at that as an option. If given the opportunity, I'm not sure. The reason I've gone back and forth is while I might not want to live in a huge city like Seattle, it will be a good learning environment for me. So I think I still would choose Seattle so I could learn everything I possibly could about medicine. I'm in the T.R.U.S.T. (Targeted Rural Underserved Track) program, which is kind of a new program. But what that program is designed for is five Idaho residents who have been admitted … are going to learn how to do rural medicine. … I'll learn the specific challenges that rural doctors face and how to overcome those challenges.

Do you believe optimism plays a role in a patient's health?

Absolutely. There's a lot of really interesting studies that look at what the hormones do, and how an individual's mindset … can really affect (their) healing outcome. … Hope and humor can really do amazing things. They help better your immune system. It gears your body to fight illness, so it sets you up really well to have better health outcomes.

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