Rob McClendon: Well, the shortage of physicians
and other medical personnel in rural areas is a real problem, but one solution is to
expose rural students to these careers early on in life. It’s been known that young adults who grew
up in rural communities are more likely to stay there when they begin their professional
lives. Our Blane Singletary has the story. Blane Singletary: If you’re looking for hard-working
students who have embraced the rural lifestyle, look no further than the FFA. Baylie Diffee: I work with him every evening
and walk him and teach him to brace, and that’s gonna pay off in the show ring. Blane: That’s Baylie Diffee, just one of thousands
of Oklahoma’s Future Farmers of America. Aside from this passion of caring for livestock
and entering them in shows, she also has a passion in caring for people. Diffee: I’ve always wanted to be in the medical
field, but I never knew what I wanted to do. And then talking to Dr. Shrum helped me out
a lot. Blane: When we spoke to Diffee back in 2013,
she was one of a handful of FFA members recruited by Dr. Kayse Shrum and others and put on the
fast track to a rural medical career. It’s all part of a program called “Blue Coat
to White Coat.” Kayse Shrum: When we started that program,
I think people on both sides of the fence were kind of scratching their heads and kind
of curious about why would a medical school be at the state FFA convention? That was very intentional because we want
to have medicine embraced in rural communities, and there’s nothing more rural than FFA. Blane: It’s the hope of this program that
these rurally raised young adults will be the perfect prescription for a rural Oklahoma
that needs more medical professionals. Shrum: You know, there are four things that
will predict where a physician will practice, and it’s where they grew up, where they do
their undergraduate work, if their medical school has an emphasis on primary care, rural
populations, and where you do your residency training. We’re really wanting to focus on getting physicians
who are gonna be there and become a part of the community and really have an impact on
those communities. Blane: And it’s not just the rural roots that
have medical schools targeting FFA students and their colleagues. Shrum: They also have a lot of leadership
skills, they understand hard work, they understand taking care of something. I mean, they have a lot of qualities that
we’re looking for in physicians. Blane: Programs like “Blue Coat to White Coat”
create pathways for these young adults, especially those who would not have thought about becoming
a physician otherwise if they didn’t come from a family of doctors or even college graduates. Shrum: If they don’t have someone who can
advise them about college, we want to make that easy for them. Blane: And that’s where “Operation Orange”
comes in. Every summer, the OSU Center for Health Sciences
travels across the state, partnering with other colleges and high schools, to bring
a dose of medical school to these students who might have an interest in it. That’s done through pairing high school students
with current medical students, like Jessica Sorelle and Cyriece Olivier. Jessica Sorelle: We are all second-year medical
students, and we are here just kind of exposing high school students to what opportunities
they have in the health field. Cyriece Olivier: I worked with the SAM mannequins,
which basically simulate heart, lung and abdominal sounds, so it’s just a way we can practice. Sorelle: We’re showing them some of the skills
we learn as medical students and hopefully sparking some interest for them. Blane: It’s not just about letting these high
school students get hands-on experience. They’re getting advice on how to navigate
the sometimes difficult road ahead should they choose to go in this direction. Sarah Bollinger was one of dozens of high
school students who came with this curiosity. Sarah Bollinger: I think this is really important
because, you know, you never know if you wanna do it until you see it. So you get to experience it and you get to
know, “Yes, this is what I want to do,” or “Maybe this isn’t what I want to do,” but
today I know this is what I want to do. Blane: It’s these unique experiences that
Jessica was thankful for when she was in their shoes. Sorelle: I remember in undergrad, not so much
in high school, but undergrad, doing things like suture clinics and stuff through OSU
that really made OSU stand out in my mind and also kind of reaffirm that I wanted to
go into the medical field, or the health field, at least. Blane: And it’s this spark, through programs
like “Operation Orange” and “Blue Coat to White Coat” that could shock life back into
rural health care in Oklahoma. Sorelle: Our mission at OSU is to provide
doctors to underserved Oklahoma, and so I think starting kids young, letting them know
that they can do it is really important especially to show them ways that they can go back and
serve their communities. We’re just letting them know this is one way
they can do that. Rob: Now OSU Health Sciences is gearing up
for another handful of summer sessions for “Operation Orange.” To find out how you or your high-school student
can get involved, we have a link to their website