The summer months are a time of great transition for every member of the OSU Center for Rural Health community. We are preparing to welcome the new class of students who are anxiously awaiting their first day of medical school, orienting those who are transitioning from one year to the next, and bidding our graduates farewell as they move into the next phase of their education. Our attention is ever focused on finding new ways to achieve higher levels of success within an expanding population. This inherent need to evolve and grow limits our ability to revel in the successes of times gone by. The proof of our success lies in the students who pass through our doors, who endure years of coursework and rotations, and who ultimately graduate and take their skills into the world. Robert K. Sammons, M.A., OSU Center for Rural Health Regional Coordinator in Enid, Oklahoma, profiles two recent graduates, Charity Holder, D.O. and Laura Fluke, D.O. His article explores their journey through medical school and their interest in rural health.
Even before matriculating to the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine (OSU COM), Charity Holder, D.O. was passionate about promoting the idea of connecting the rural Oklahoma population with access to quality health care. Dr. Holder was inspired to attend OSU COM by the rural physicians within her community, most of who were trained in osteopathic medicine. Her personal experiences instilled a desire to learn from the very same curriculum that was the foundation of the physicians she observed. Dr. Holder also mentions that the mission statement for the OSU COM, especially the portion that promotes the training of physicians with a desire to practice in rural areas, played a major role in her decision to enroll.
On the first evening of her medical school orientation, Dr. Holder had the opportunity to speak with William J. Pettit, D.O. about her passion for serving Oklahoma’s rural areas. Dr. Pettit’s positive feedback and visible excitement made her decision to become one of the first students to enroll in the Rural Health Option easy. In 2008, Dr. Holder and her fellow classmates organized and started the Student Osteopathic Rural Medicine (StORM) Club, where she served as the first President. Through StORM, Dr. Holder played a major role in educating the community about the issues associated with rural health, and was able to inspire more than 120 students to become members of the National Rural Health Association. Dr. Holder has been a vocal advocate of the promise of equity that can be achieved through the implementation of telemedicine technologies, and has been a leader in educating other students about the realities, rather than myths, of rural lifestyles. Dr. Holder will complete her graduate medical education in family medicine at the Tahlequah City Hospital in Tahlequah, Oklahoma
Finding passion for rural service does not originate solely from growing up in a small community. Laura Fluke, D.O. exemplifies this very notion. Dr. Fluke, originally from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, first became interested in Osteopathic medicine while attending Loyola University New Orleans. Her roommate’s parents, who are both osteopathic physicians, provided inspiration through their discussions of philosophical foundations and practical applications. Finding inspiration in the experiences of others played a major role in the educational path Dr. Fluke decided upon. She tells the story of a group of students that were enrolled in the rural course during the spring semester of her first year. They raved about the opportunities to gain hands on experiences through an engaging and energetic curriculum. Dr. Fluke enrolled in the same course for the following semester, and never looked back.
That first rural course did not disappoint. Dr. Fluke found enthusiasm in courses that discussed unique and often overlooked topics, which reinforced her desire to become one of the first to complete a rural track education at OSU COM; a path that would have been impossible without the work of the individuals that make up the Center for Rural Health, and the physicians that are active participants. Dr. Fluke credits the leadership and energy from Dr. Pettit, the problem-solving abilities of Vicky Pace, M.Ed., and the tireless work of Sherry Eastman as being critical to her achievement of success. Her rotation with James Sumner, D.O. in Durant, Oklahoma inspired her to become a surgeon. Dr. Fluke accepted an appointment in the U.S. Navy and she will complete her graduate medical education in general surgery at the Naval Medical Center Portsmouth in Portsmouth, Virginia.
These are only two of the many success stories that exist for the programs we administer. They are shining examples for current and future students to aspire. Dr. Holder and Dr. Fluke have both moved on into the next phases of their medical education, but remain the best, and most powerful, marketing tool available. They are the faces of our collective success. Even as we move towards the new and exciting future, let us never forget to remember those who provide us with the opportunity to grow.