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Oklahoma's rural doctors face obstacles in providing higher level of care

Drs. Jeff and Melissa Gastorf opened their family practice clinic in Durant because they loved the town and the people, but face challenges urban doctors may not face.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: July 2, 2013

— If it's a gross question, they're usually asked in the frozen food aisle.

Drs. Melissa and Jeff Gastorf have the same challenge as many small-town doctors — they can't go to Walmart without seeing at least one patient with at least one question.

Weird questions about rashes while picking up groceries are just part of the job, though.

The Gastorfs, who are married, have operated their family clinic in Durant for about eight years. They completed their residency, one of the requirements for medical school, in Durant and decided it would be a good place to raise children.

“We love the town,” Jeff Gastorf said.

Durant, in Bryan County, has about 17,000 residents and is home to Southeastern Oklahoma State University and the Choctaw Casino Resort.

The Gastorfs say one of their main challenges is getting a patient to a specialist.

“The COPD'ers don't go to the pulmonologist until their end stage because being able to get them in is difficult,” Jeff Gastorf said. “We have to take care of conditions a lot longer than a primary care doctor in the city does.”

This is a substantial problem, considering chronic lower respiratory diseases are one of three leading causes of death in Bryan County. And the prevalence of asthma in Bryan County is about 60 percent higher than the national rate and 40 percent higher than the state rate.

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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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