Answering the call of rural medicine

Returning home gave this physician the chance to care for the people who matter most to her.

By Marcia Travelstead | Career Move | Winter 2019

 

Family brought Lori MacPherson, M.D., back to practice in a rural area. There are other benefits: "I don't have to be in a big city and fight traffic with the added stressors." -Photo by Zayne Williams

Family brought Lori MacPherson, M.D., back to practice in a rural area. There are other benefits: “I don’t have to be in a big city and fight traffic with the added stressors.” -Photo by Zayne Williams

Name: Lori MacPherson, M.D.

Employer: Affiliated with Cox North Hospital, Mountain Grove, Missouri

Education

Undergraduate: Missouri State University, Springfield

Medical: University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine, Columbia

Residency: Cox Family Practice Residency, Springfield

Professional accomplishments for MacPherson include board certification in family medicine, being in the top 10 percent of her medical school class and being featured on “Mystery Diagnosis” on the Oprah Winfrey Network. She enjoys kayaking, canoeing, hiking, camping and scuba diving. MacPherson practices in Mountain Grove, Missouri, which has a population of about 4,500.

What do you like about being a physician in a rural area?

I don’t have to be in a big city and fight traffic with the added stressors. It’s only an hour away to drive to a good size mall in Springfield, Missouri.

We have fresh air. It’s easy to get someone to help you do things. We keep an eye out for each other, so when we see something unusual, we act.

I do administrative work for a hospital that’s an hour away. Physicians there ask me why I stay here. The bottom line is, as doctors, we’re all working hard to maintain our livelihoods no matter where we live.

What are the challenges?

As a doctor and a family doctor in general, I’m a caregiver. Being in a small town, I tend to know a lot about my patients and their families. It can be very difficult at times. When I do something as simple as go to Walmart, it’s hard to get out of there because I get stopped and asked questions.

For example, one time a lady grabbed her husband to talk to me about his symptoms because he wouldn’t make an appointment. I have two sons, one who’s outspoken. When he was little, he’d say to people, “Can you please quit asking questions because we really want to get out of here?”

I also am no longer on Facebook because people want me to diagnose over the internet and not make an appointment.

Was there anything about working in a small community that surprised you?

Honestly, no. When I was in medical school, I was required to do a rural medicine rotation, so I came back here. I worked with a physician who is my mentor, David Barbe, M.D. Same thing in residency. I had the experience early on and I did all of my rotations with him. He was inaugurated as president of the AMA.

I would ride with him to deliver babies 30 minutes away, and he would give me life advice about what it was like to really be a rural physician.

It’s not 8 to 5 even if you don’t deliver babies. He really prepared me well for this career, so there were very few surprises.

What’s your advice for physicians who are considering a rural practice?

Try it out and take it for a test drive. Take the time to do some rotations in the area that you want to consider going.

I came back here because I married my high school sweetheart and he wanted to come back.

If you’re in a relationship with someone, it’s important for your spouse or significant other to be 100 percent on board with living in rural area.

If they’re not happy, the physician won’t be happy.

It’s been an honor to take care of my patients and family members. I continue to learn so much from my patients each and every day.

I’m fortunate that I was able to return home and take care of people who matter to me.

 

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