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Oklahoma State University medical school and FFA form relationship to stimulate interest in rural medicine

To combat Oklahoma's growing shortage of primary care physicians, OSU Center for Health Sciences is reaching out to rural Oklahoma students in hopes they'll become doctors and stay in the state to practice medicine.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: May 6, 2012
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Glencoe, a town of 600 people, is about 15 miles northeast of Stillwater in Payne County. There are 81 medical doctors in Payne County, serving 68,190 people. This factors out to 841 patients per doctor, according to the state medical board.

But several counties in Oklahoma face significant physician shortages. In eight of Oklahoma's counties, there's only one medical doctor — Atoka County, Choctaw County, Dewey County, Harper County, Jefferson County, Pawnee County, Pushmataha County and Roger Mills County, according to the state medical board.

Less than one-fourth of the counties in Oklahoma, about 18 counties, have at least one doctor per 2,000 people, according to a draft from the state Health Department about provider population ratios. Almost half of the counties in Oklahoma, about 36 counties, have between 0.57 and 0.99 doctors per 2,000 people. About 23 counties have fewer than 0.57 doctors per 2,000 people.

That's why medical students like Rachael Pattison are important to keep in Oklahoma.

Growing up on a ranch in Holdenville, Pattison didn't initially want to go to medical school. Pattison, a third-year medical student at OSU, wanted to be a veterinarian.

Once she was at East Central University in Ada, a mentor asked her — have you considered medical school?

After shadowing a few doctors, Pattison decided her mentor was right and that she wanted to practice medicine in rural Oklahoma.

“It's where I'm from, it's what I know, and I see the desperate need for it,” she said.

Pattison, past president of the Student Osteopathic Rural Medical Association at OSU's medical school, hopes to practice medicine at a small hospital and have her own practice in Holdenville or at least close by.

Holdenville is about 80 miles southeast of Oklahoma City, population 5,771. The small town is in Hughes County, which has three medical doctors serving about 4,718 people each, according to state medical board data.

Pattison recently finished a shift on OSU's telemedicine bus when it traveled to Porter, a town of about 570 people in northeastern Oklahoma.

These patients are some of the most grateful people Pattison has found. Many of the patients treated through telemedicine don't have access to a doctor either because there isn't one in the area or they don't have a car or maybe they can't take a full day off from work.

“Or they need a specialist,” Pattison said. “That's the only way we can get a specialist to Porter, Oklahoma, is via telemedicine.”

by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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