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A Fort Stockton doctor finishes rural residency, makes plans to stay

Dr. Cristian Medina, pictured with his wife Diana and their children Mikhail and Yeshua.
Pecos County Memorial Hospital
Dr. Cristian Medina, pictured with his wife Diana and their children Mikhail and Yeshua.

Over the last several years, some medical schools in Texas have created what they’re calling "rural training tracks" to help grow the number of doctors in parts of the state where doctors can be hard to come by.

It’s just one part of what some Texas health care advocates say is needed to stop the trend of rural hospitals closing.

To get a better sense of how these rural partnerships are working in practice, Marfa Public Radio spoke with Dr. Cristian Medina, an early-career doctor at the Pecos County Memorial Hospital in Fort Stockton who just completed his rural residency in this program and has decided to stay in the area.

Interview Highlights

On his motivations for practicing medicine in a rural area

Medina said his upbringing in Laredo, Texas helped him become interested in rural medicine, as did his awareness of the need those areas have for more doctors.

“It kind of sparked an interest in wanting to be the best physician I could become,” he said. “Really what pushed it over the top was the ability to provide obstetric care in these communities.”

On the experience of a rural health care training program

Medina’s residency program started with a year in Odessa, after which he moved to Fort Stockton.

There, he said, medical residents “really submerge” themselves in the life of a rural doctor.

“We do a lot of inpatient [care], we do a lot of obstetrics, we do colonoscopies, endoscopies, we can have surgery,” he said. “What you want to get out of the residency, you can kind of tailor it towards your interests.”

Medina said given his particular interest in obstetrics, he focused on that area of practice during his residency. The program has given him experience with a wide range of medicine that he feels will help him in his career wherever he winds up in his career, he said.

On his decision to stay in Fort Stockton

As he described it, the local community and his colleagues were large parts of why Medina decided to continue practicing medicine in Fort Stockton.

“It’s an amazing community, very, very welcoming,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of experience with the medical staff here going above and beyond for patients that I haven’t really seen in other areas that I’ve worked.”

On how rural areas can address the doctor shortage

Medina said hospitals and clinics should focus on recruitment efforts to address the trend in doctors leaving or not choosing to practice in rural areas.

Still, he acknowledged that practicing in a rural area is a challenge.

“Rural medicine is its own speciality,” he said. “The expectations that come out of a rural doctor are not those that you would normally expect from a city physician, because [in cities] you have all those specialists.”

Medina said part of what made him want to stay in West Texas was seeing his own impact in the lives of patients with difficult health issues.

“The life of a rural doctor is very strenuous, and can become quite overwhelming,” he said. “But, in my opinion, the reward to it is so much greater.”

Travis Bubenik is All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter at Marfa Public Radio.