The Story Behind the 2012 Dr. U. R. Plante Medical Scholarship Winner Kyle Devins

Kyle Devins and Michaela Bushey

Kyle Devins and fiance Michaela Bushey

Excerpted from Kyle’s scholarship application

In the fall of 2010, I made a decision that would change my life forever.  During the previous summer, Michaela, my girlfriend of over four years, had suffered a spinal cord injury in a diving accident that left her functionally quadriplegic.  I was there for her immediately, calling upon my years of athletic training education to stabilize her neck until emergency personnel arrived.  In the months following the accident, I visited Michaela at rehabilitation centers from Atlanta to Baltimore.  There, I met people of all ages who were in desperate need of help.  There were sick children who had lost parents, paralyzed mothers whose spouses had left them because of their injuries, and countless other stories of loss.  I realized that many of these people did not have the system of support that Michaela did.  While I knew that I could never truly understand their pain, I knew I had to do something to help.  With Michaela’s support, I determined that I would become a physician and devote my life to helping others in need of medical care.

After my decision was made, I was faced with a daunting task.  As a senior at Ithaca College, I had spent the last 3 and a half years pursuing a degree in athletic training.   By taking class sequences out of order, preparing for the MCAT examination independently, and taking the MCAT exam before completing a large portion of my coursework, I was able to apply to medical school on time.  Throughout this process, I was also able to work as the head athletic trainer at a local community college and assist occupational therapists in providing care for Michaela.  My determination paid off, and I was accepted to SUNY Update Medical University and their Rural Medical Scholars Program in March 2012.

My interest in the Rural Medical Scholars program is based on both my upbringing in the Adirondack Mountains and my desire to address the need for more rural doctors.  Growing up here has left me with a love for rural communities, where the sense of togetherness can be profound, in spite of long distances between towns.  This was manifested after the flooding of Clinton and Essex Counties by tropical storm Irene.  Regardless of the damage to their own homes and property, countless individuals volunteered their time and money to help other people in need.  The Rural Medical Scholars program at SUNY Update, will place me in an affiliated rural hospital during my final nine month of clinical rotations.  This will prepare me to serve the rural communities that I love when I become a practicing physician.

Today there are very few new physicians beginning to practice in rural areas.  This is based on many factors, including increasing costs associated with private practice, fewer rural-raised students in med school, false preconceptions about unpreparedness of rural physicians, and the prevalence of large tertiary-care facilities as teaching hospitals.  Most medical schools are affiliated with large teaching hospitals, limiting the contact students have with rural patients and physicians. 

Unfortunately, the result is that many people must travel great distances to receive medical care.  In some cases, this may cause people to reduce the frequency of their visits, leading to increased risk of medical problems.  Almost 20 million Americans live in areas deemed medically underserved by the federal government.

Although the lack of rural physicians is a very real problem, there are many skilled doctors working in rural settings.  I have had the opportunity to learn from two of these medical doctors and observe their methods for dealing with some of the problems facing rural medical practice.  My first experience came in the summer of 2009 when I spent  120 hours shadowing an orthopedist in Lake Placid.  My second occurred during the spring of 2011 when I followed a family physician serving rural populations outside Ithaca, NY.  Both of these doctors were role models in the office as well as the community.  Their involvement in local fitness programs, community outreach groups, and numerous other activities showcased their interest in the people and communities they serve.  This commitment was also apparent in the way these physicians treated their patients.  Even though they saw many patients over the course of a day, they spent time focused on the individual needs of each patient.  In doing so, these doctors were able to provide a high level of patient-specific care.  They also emphasized their roles as educators, ensuring that their pati9ents were well informed about their condition and all of the available treatment options.  Through their actions, these medical doctors conveyed a love for their patients and their communities.   They also taught me how rewarding rural medical practice can be.

**As an addition to this heartwarming story of Kyle Devins, he and Michaela are now engaged.