More than six years ago, OSU Center for Health Sciences recognized there was a growing need for physicians in rural and underserved parts of Oklahoma. Leaders at the university also knew that physicians who grew up in rural communities are more likely to return to their hometowns or places like them to practice medicine, which is how the Blue Coat to White Coat program was born.
“The Blue Coat to White Coat program is our partnership with FFA to identify talented students interested in a career as a physician,” said Dylan Tucker, outreach coordinator at OSU-CHS. “It’s a great partnership. What better way to serve rural Oklahoma than to give those students from those areas a way to give back to their community? No one knows better what rural Oklahoma needs than someone with that background, and these students are leaders in those communities.”
In November, Oklahoma FFA Executive Secretary Trevor Lucas got a personal tour of the OSU-CHS campus from former FFA member and current medical student Samuel Shepherd as well as some one-on-one time with OSU-CHS President and Dean of the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine, Dr. Kayse Shrum.
“OSU-CHS is an absolute world class institution. I was blown away by all of the state-of-the-art technology and the focus on hands-on learning,” Lucas said. “The staff and student relationships seem to be very strong. It’s a good feeling when you walk into an organization and feel everyone is working toward a mission they believe in. That’s the feeling I got while visiting OSU-CHS.”
"It’s a good feeling when you walk into an organization and feel everyone is working toward a mission they believe in. That’s the feeling I got while visiting OSU-CHS."
And while a partnership between FFA and a medical school may seem strange to some, it doesn’t to Lucas.
“It may not seem like these two entities coming together makes much sense, but I believe it absolutely does. Agricultural educators hang their hat on providing hands-on learning experiences that incorporate STEM concepts. These concepts along with the soft skills that ag-ed students learn through their FFA experience— being a good team player, communicating effectively and practicing good time management— translate perfectly to the OSU-CHS program.”
ShiAnne Farris is a medical student at OSU-COM and grew up in Alva, Oklahoma where she was part of the Alva FFA chapter. After earning her undergraduate degree in 2013, she worked as a registered nurse in rural Oklahoma.
“I saw a huge need for high quality care, lasting continuity of care, and providers that knew how to navigate the resources and needs of my fellow rural Oklahoma citizens. I knew I wanted to advance my role in medicine. What a better way to do that and help meet the needs of patients than to become a rural physician,” Farris said. “Rural medicine has a unique set of challenges, but if it is something that you are passionate about, there are some amazing rewards that come from working and living in a rural area. You have the opportunity to take care of not only a whole family, but an entire community.”
Lucas said the state is full of FFA students like Farris who are intelligent, self-starting and interested in serving rural Oklahoma, and that’s exactly the kind of student OSU-CHS is looking for.
“That’s what makes the Blue Coat to White Coat program so great, it connects students to a future career that they otherwise may have never considered,” he said. “Plus, giving these students rewarding careers that keep them in their rural communities is a huge plus for our state.”
“These students know what their communities need. They know how to engage with their community because they’ve been doing so most of their lives. They do what they do because they have a love for their community,” she said. “I am very excited for this partnership and I am looking forward to watching it grow.”
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