Why Emphasize Rural Primary Care?
Alexis Foster, E&H MPAS Class of 2019, won runner up, and a conference scholarship, for her Virginia Rural Health Association essay answering the question, “Why are you deciding to become a Physician Assistant and lead a life serving others in rural communities?”
I believe the events experienced throughout life unfold passion and explore the vast reasons “why rural.” Experiences such as: observing a PA in a rural pediatric office soothe a scared child to gain trust to listen to his heart, watching a PA in a rural Tennessee hospital deliver bad news in a manner that calmed not terrified, and observing a physician in an Appalachian children’s hospital examine a premature infant in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit with the gentlest touch have led to my decision to become a “rural” Physician Assistant. I believe rural healthcare calls for specific personality traits. I am choosing rural health because my personality reflects the qualities called for in these situations: empathy, strength, bravery, and patience. However, perhaps the most important quality for rural healthcare professionals is passion for patient care. My passion for rural health was solidified through an experience that began on a dreary, cloudy morning. I awoke before the sun rose; this was the morning I served my hometown in the Remote Area Medical Clinic. My hometown is like any other small town. Everyone knows each other. It is hard to hide anything in a town this small, or so I thought. The clinic was held in the high school. I had been in this location many times for school or ballgames, but on this morning, it was an unrecognizable territory. I pulled into the parking lot just as the sun was rising. The light shone on an unfathomable mass of people waiting in line to receive the free medical care. Left speechless, I can remember thinking, “Are there really this many people in my hometown?”, “How can this many kids, some my friends, not see a doctor if they are sick?”, and “How could I not have seen such unmet need in my own community?” As I walked into the school, it became apparent how long some of these people had been in the line: some camped in tents to ensure that valuable ticket to receive the procedure their child so desperately needed would be placed into their hands. For many it was not about self, even though they desperately needed care; it was about their children. As a triage volunteer, I was able to meet these people of the entire area I call home, Appalachia, firsthand. With a heavy heart from this experience, I met the founder, Stan Brock, full of questions. I can remember asking him “why.” Why did you choose to make your life’s mission to organize so many professionals to help all of these people in need? It only took hearing his answer, his time spent in Guyana with the Wapishana Indians and other remote, under-served areas of the world to solidify my “why.” In the famous words of Stan Brock, “There are Wapishanas everywhere.”
From that day, I knew I could make a huge difference in rural communities no matter what medical route I chose. So many people of rural communities need quality healthcare, and providers with a passion to serve them. I now see Wapishana everywhere, even in the people of Appalachia, in so many other rural communities. I will help these children and families who had no other hope with the expansive skills and knowledge that I will obtain as a Physician Assistant. As a rural Physician Assistant, I will be able to work in, and learn many different specialties as the need arises whether that be in pediatrics, family medicine, emergency, or surgery. I believe this flexibility will allow me the most opportunity to grow and develop the vast majority of skills that are needed to provide rural communities the best care possible. By expanding my areas of practice, I will be able to serve the most people. I will be able to overcome any challenge that arises. Each and every one of these experiences increased my passion for rural patient care. A career decision to become a rural PA is one that will challenge me in all aspects every day. Rural health involves aspects in all subsets of care. These challenges that practicing in a rural area will bring about will push me to become the best provider for my patients. Becoming a Physician Assistant in a rural setting is a challenge that I cannot wait to begin in pursuit of aiding the “Wapishanas everywhere.”
Alexis Foster, Class of 2020