Tahlequah Daily Press

June 13, 2013

Operation Orange

Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Oklahoma is in short supply of medical doctors.

The state ranks 49th in the United States in the number of primary care physicians per capita, said Dr. Kayse Shrum, who is the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences provost and dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Shrum was in Tahlequah on Wednesday at Northeastern State University to promote the idea of becoming a medical doctor through a summer camp known as Operation Orange.

The free one-day camp gives high school students the opportunity to experience life as a doctor, while learning about the academic plan necessary to reach the goal. Students spend the day testing their suturing skills, studying anatomy with a human heart, lungs and brain, practice clinical skills like incubation, while learning how to check blood pressure and examine ears.

“It’s really about starting early and getting them prepared,” said Shrum. “Start telling them that, ‘yes, this is something that you can do, and we’re going to show how to get there.’”

Rural Oklahoma is in need of primary care physicians, and Operation Orange is a good start for students from smaller communities who may be thinking about wanting to help people for a career, Shrum said.

“I never thought about being a physician until someone said I could,” she said.

“I grew up in Coweta, and didn’t have interest in becoming a doctor. We want to bring as much of the medical school as possible to these kids so they realize that medicine doesn’t just happen in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. The rural areas of the state need doctors, and that’s our mission at OSU - to train doctors for primary care in rural Oklahoma.”

Shrum said the average age of physicians in rural Oklahoma is close to 60, and students who grow up in rural areas embrace that lifestyle and are likely to return to home or another rural area to practice medicine.

“We already have that relationship with Tahlequah. We have residency programs here. They can do two years at our medical school, and then spend time with physicians here in Tahlequah,” she said.

“After they’ve graduated from medical school and go into their specialty training, like the internal medicine/family medicine program here in Tahlequah, studies show that those residents will stay and practice within 100-mile radius of where they did their residency program.”

Dustin Beck, a Tahlequah City Hospital OSU resident and NSU alum from Wagoner, said the benefit of Operation Orange for students still in high school is the camp presents hands-on experience.

“Whenever you’re in high school, the light is far away at the end of the tunnel. You’re still trying to figure out what you want to do, and something like this is nice because it gets you out of the classroom and you get to practice some real skills that could be life-saving for somebody,” he said.

Beck said he will be a hospitalist at W.W. Hastings Hospital when he completes his residency program, and has his parents to thank for his interest in a medical career.


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