NAUVOO, Ill. — Nauvoo is a small town with a population of 1,100. While 20 percent of all Americans live in rural areas, only 9 percent of all physicians practice in smaller communities. A country doctor is a welcome and vital necessity in providing good medical care to patients in these smaller communities.
Grateful residents realize how fortunate they are if a medical doctor is willing to move to their town, set up a practice, care for the sick and elderly, treat their diseases and deliver new babies. Recently, appreciative patients of Dr. Rachel Rahman nominated their favorite and sole medical physician in Nauvoo for the Annual Country Doctor Award.
Each year the award is presented to a physician who best exemplifies the dedication, skill and devotion of a medical practitioner in a rural community. Runner-up for this National honor is Nauvoo's resident Dr. Rahman, who was recognized for her extraordinary efforts in her care for her patients.
Dr. Rahman attended medical school at the University of Utah. She completed a rural Family Practice residency in Minnesota and came to Nauvoo with her family in 2001. Drawn to Nauvoo in a series of coincidences and job offers, she and her husband, Frank, moved from Minnesota. When the hospitals that were supporting her practice decided to close her clinic, the Rahmans decided to purchase the clinic from them. Working side-by-side, husband and wife were able to cut their expenses, combine his marketing company, her medical practice and an existing real estate firm into one building and are now able to offer affordable medical care to people living in rural areas of western Illinois.
The community was well aware of the sacrifices that the Rahmans were making. Liability insurance continues to mount, with costs rising, many doctors are forced to abandon practicing rural medicine. Opening an office in nearby Carthage, Ill., and agreeing to cover the obstetric department at Memorial Carthage when no other doctor is on duty has endeared this young couple to grateful residents. Marcia Brown, head of the U.S. Office of Rural Health Policy said, "More than 1,000 physicians abandon their small town practices each year and 460 rural hospitals have closed since 1980."
It is clearly more than hopes for financial gain that keep the Rahmans in Nauvoo. "The best part of my job is seeing my patients' health improve and trying to assist them to work through their medical problems," she said. "It is always a marvel to see how people meet their challenges and go on."
Dr. Rahman has always enjoyed learning but she developed her compassionate side in helping people overcome unhealthy habits as she served as a young missionary in The Netherlands. "I came to really love the feeling of helping people feel better about themselves," she said. "Encouraging them seemed to come easy to me, perhaps because I am the oldest of 10 children. I was blessed with a love for chemistry and physics and knew medicine would provide me with a lifelong learning experience and an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others."
One appreciative resident, Les Martin, expressed his feelings: "I credit her with saving my life. I had come into the office for a regular checkup when Dr. Rahman recognized a rare infection in my bloodstream and rushed me to a specialist." The specialist said, "I don't know of a rural doctor in the Midwest who could have found this disease; who is this Rachel Rahman?"
"She is our hometown girl, she is a great lady," said Estell Neff, a patient of Dr. Rahman's, a longtime resident of Nauvoo and a descendant of Joseph Smith Sr.
Dr. Rahman met her husband when they were students in Utah while attending BYU. The couple married and after she completed medical school and residency at a Mayo Clinic facility, they began to look for a rural area to begin her practice and open their marketing company. Nauvoo was their favorite choice, which made it even more meaningful, as Dr. Rahman's ancestors once lived here. The Rahmans are the parents of four little girls, Rebekah, Ruth, Sariah and Tamara.
"This is a total family commitment, we all help Mom as she helps others," said Rebekah, their oldest daughter. The Rahmans are active members in the Nauvoo 1st Ward, Nauvoo Illinois Stake.