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FFA Working to Attract Students to Rural Medicine

Agricultural education and FFA, the affiliated CareerTech student organization, target students who are interested in the medical field because it’s easier to keep potential rural doctors at home than to attract urban doctors to the country.
FFA Working to Attract Students to Rural Medicine

Baylie Diffe, a senior at Coweta High School, is among the first FFA students in Oklahoma recruited to consider a career as a rural physician while still in high school.


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Show 1302: FFA Working to Attract Students to Rural Medicine


Rob McClendon: Now everyone who works on the rural doctor shortage will tell you, it is easier to keep potential rural doctors at home rather than attract urban doctors out of the city; which is why the medical field is now a new emphasis in ag education classes. Once again, here is Cathy Tatum.


[nats: We could talk about ethics all day long.]

Cathy: Baylie Diffee is a senior at Coweta High. Throughout her high school career, she’s participated in FFA, Future Farmers of America classes.

Baylie Diffee: This is Ying, my sheep.

Cathy: For her class project, she’s raising a sheep to enter in livestock shows.

Baylie: I work with him every evening and walk him and teach him to brace and that’s gonna pay off in the show ring.

Cathy: Diffee is among the first FFA students in Oklahoma recruited while still in high school to consider a career as a rural physician.

Baylie: I’ve always wanted to be in the medicine, like the medical field, but I never knew what I wanted to do, and then talking to Dr. Shrum helped me out a lot.

Cathy: Dr. Kayse Shrum is the dean of the college of osteopathic medicine and provost at the Center for Health Sciences at OSU Tulsa.

Kayse Shrum: We have a pretty big issue with the shortage of primary care physicians in rural and underserved Oklahoma.

Cathy: To reduce the shortage, OSU is taking an unusual step. It’s teaming with FFA to encourage rural high school students to become doctors dedicated to practicing medicine in Oklahoma’s smallest communities.

Shrum: We have to look at doing things differently than what we’ve done in the past. You know medical schools have typically, you know, reached out to college students and encouraged college students.

Cathy: Reaching out to high school students, especially those participating in FFA, targets a group of potential physicians already familiar with country life. Shrum says four things have a really big influence on where doctors practice medicine.

Shrum: Where they grew up, where they went to college, if their medical school has an emphasis on primary care and rural health or underserved within their curriculum, and then, where they do the residency program.

[nats: Hello, Miss Rossi; how are you doing?]

Cathy: So in addition to encouraging FFA students to become doctors, OSU created a special rural health track for its physicians already in training.

Doctor: How are you feelin’?

Patient: I’m feeling a lot better today.

Shrum: This past year, the Oklahoma Legislature passed a bill that will help us develop residency programs in rural Oklahoma.

Charity holder: Durant, Enid and Tahlequah are established, and we’re trying to get Lawton started up for western Oklahoma.

Cathy: For the first two years of medical school, students in the rural physician program live and train in Tulsa at the OSU Health Sciences Center.

[nats: But now I’m thinking it’s more likely related to the incision.]

Cathy: For the next five years, they train in rural hospitals. Dr. Charity Holder finished medical school training in Durant. Now she’s doing her residency in family medicine at Tahlequah City Hospital. She says the program gives participants more hands-on experience than a typical big city training hospital.

Holder: I talked to some of my colleagues up at OSU, and they said that on their OB month, they only got to deliver two babies, and they technically didn’t get to deliver ’em; they just assisted. Well, my classmates and I that went down to Durant and Amanda Reid in Tahlequah, our comparison charts, we were delivering 30 babies a month. You know, we were catching them! We actually got to do all the procedures. We were first assist. Whereas third-year residents didn’t get to be an assist, we got to first assist on all these really awesome procedures. We were in surgeries all the time.

Cathy: When Holder finishes her residency, she plans to practice in her hometown of Coalgate. Dr. Shrum says having a physician in a small town doesn’t just keep the community physically healthy.

Shrum: In order to have industry in rural areas of the state, in order for the economies in rural areas to flourish, they really need a physician there.

[nats: Page nine, where we ended up Friday.]

Cathy: So Shrum believes when FFA classes sow the seeds of interest in becoming country doctors, it’s as much about securing Oklahoma’s future rural health care, as it is about cultivating our state’s rural economic health.


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