Why Emphasize Rural Primary Care?
Class of 2023 PA student Curtis Dunn answers the question, “Why are you deciding to become a Physician Assistant and lead a life serving others in rural communities?”
Why Emphasize Rural Primary Care?
I grew up catching crawdads and finding salamanders in the creek, until the San Francisco Bay area consumed my rural community into its metropolitan area. Fondly remembering the setting of my childhood as nature’s playground, in adulthood I made the decision to move to Central California and was once again at home in a rural community. In the heart of American agriculture, I raised my three children until graduate school took me East. I chose to relocate my family to Southwest Virginia because I believe there is no better place to raise a family than in a rural community: where the pace of life is slower, the air is cleaner, and the opportunity to appreciate nature is limitless. Unfortunately, my ideal environment lacks something that I am passionate about: access to quality healthcare.
Due to lower population densities, rural communities lack the availability of resources that other urban areas have with ease. While poverty exists globally, rural communities tend to have higher poverty rates making it difficult for participants to pay for the services or programs available to them. Without sufficient funding, it is difficult to provide high quality care, and access to specialties is especially lacking. In addition to financial constraints, there are also cultural and social norms surrounding health behaviors, low health literacy levels and incomplete perceptions of health along with linguistic and educational disparities, and lack of access to healthy foods complicating patients’ abilities to take steps to improve their health.
Everyone deserves access to quality healthcare, even those living in rural communities. Just because family history, occupation, or personal conviction has led someone to reside in a rural community, does not mean that they should not have access to quality healthcare and the resources for a healthy lifestyle.
There are solutions to improve the healthcare situation in rural communities. The rise of telemedicine, utilizing both phone and internet, will be beneficial in rural communities along with consistent pop-up rural health clinics. While these types of clinics exist already, a regular schedule rotation that could cover more than preventative medicine and education would be helpful in providing more access to quality healthcare. In addition to doctor’s office-type healthcare, rural communities would benefit from education on healthy behaviors such as substance abuse, sexual activity, diet and exercise, and family and social support. If educational programs could be available in all communities- despite size and location, all people could have access to quality healthcare.
Rural communities need healthcare professionals who are willing to be part of the solution either by establishing long-term care in the area or short-term through clinics, education, or telemedicine. I choose to serve the rural community that I have come to love rather than being “one of many” providers in a city, because every person, no matter where they live, deserves a shot at living a good, healthy life.
Curtis Dunn (Class of 2023)
“Rural communities need healthcare professionals who are willing to be part of the solution either by establishing long-term care in the area or short-term through clinics, education, or telemedicine. I choose to serve the rural community that I have come to love, because every person, no matter where they live, deserves a shot at living a good, healthy life.”