Medical student values time in Fort Gibson

May 28—FORT GIBSON — Alva medical student Aaron Place said two weeks at a Fort Gibson clinic taught him about empathy.

"I've always been an empathetic person, but I really discovered here how important it is to understand the patient's perspective and where they're coming from as far as what they're feeling, how they can approach their healing process and their well-being," he said.

Place will finish a two-week externship at the Warren Clinic in Fort Gibson on Friday.

"The program is intended to introduce potential doctors to rural medicine, learn the types of patients you'll see, the types of cases you'll work on," said Place, who is studying family medicine at Oklahoma State University — College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation in Tahlequah.

The externship marks the start of Place's second year in medical school.

In Fort Gibson, he worked with Dr. Charity Johnson, D.O., a family medicine specialist.

"I really learned working with Dr. Charity Johnson.

"She is the quintessential osteopathic physician," Place said. "One of the tenets of osteopathic medicine is treating the whole person, and she does that. She knows where her patients work, she knows about their family life, she knows how well they eat. She's able to take all that information and craft treatment plans specifically for them, to ensure their health."

Before going to medical school, Place taught zoology at Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva.

He said he got into medicine so he could serve Oklahoma's rural northwest.

"Over the last several years, my family has gone through several health-related issues, and I have discovered how lacking rural health is," he said. "We have to drive at least an hour to places."

Although Alva has a small hospital, the nearest large hospitals are 64 miles away in Woodward or 73 miles in Enid, he said.

"When I was having to see an orthopedic surgeon for problems with my hand, it was a three-hour drive to Oklahoma City," Place said. "Wichita is closer, actually, but insurance doesn't cover out-of-state doctors, so we have to drive to Oklahoma City."

Place said he plans to return to northwest Oklahoma and start a family practice after he graduates. He said his wife teaches school in Waynoka.

"Anyplace in northwest Oklahoma that needs a doctor, Woodward, Waynoka or Enid," he said. "I really look forward to being able to treat the entire family, from newborns to grandpas and grandmas. I really like the challenges that treating all of the different ages present."