The Rural Gap
My journey to becoming a doctor is non-traditional. In 2004, I had bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agriculture from Texas A&M University and was ready to apply to medical school. Life had other plans. I took my MCAT in April, married my husband in May and was putting my application packet together when I found out I was pregnant in June.
I made a tough decision to put my dream on hold to raise my family. We moved from College Station to Shiner, Texas, where I took a job as a high school teacher and told myself I would go back to school when the time was right. Thirteen years later, I heard my calling and finally applied to medical schools.
What drove me back is the same reality that drives me today: Rural Texas needs doctors. Desperately. Texas has the largest rural population in the United States. One in five Texans live in rural areas, and yet Texas ranks 46th among states for number of rural physicians. Many Texans drive an hour or more to reach their closest primary care doctor. Rural communities are at the heart of what makes Texas special, but when it comes to access to quality health care, they’re being hung out to dry.
Imagine if the entire state of Arkansas didn’t have a psychiatrist. There would be cable news segments, legislative action and social media campaigns. After all, people need basic mental health practitioners. But consider this: The population of Arkansas is 3 million. The combined population of the 185 Texas counties without a psychiatrist is 3.1 million.