At a time when many college students are working summer jobs or spending time with friends, Dylon Howard is exploring the world of rural medicine.
Howard, who just completed his first year at the Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Tulsa, recently wrapped up a three-week externship with Dr. Charles Mettry of Ada. The program is open to students entering their second year of medical school who get a taste of small-city medicine by shadowing primary care physicians in rural communities.
After the externship is over, students must write a four- to six-page paper about their experience.
Howard shadowed Mettry on the job, watching as the doctor talked to patients and worked with area hospitals. Students in the externship program must observe two other health care professionals as well, but Howard had not finished that part of his assignment as of June 20.
Howard also attended two Rotary club meetings and a lecture at Valley View Hospital because the program requires students to participate in community activities.
A native of Bethel, Howard earned a bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in chemistry from East Central University in 2011.
He decided to study at the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine because he liked the school’s emphasis on rural medicine.
“They really kind of push rural medicine real hard because the state has a very short supply of rural physicians,” he said.
“Their main focus is getting doctors into rural communities.”
The externship program reinforces students’ interest in rural practice and prepares them for future clerkships where they will gain clinical office experience in a small community.
Howard said he learned a lot from Mettry, especially when it came to dealing with patients and working with hospitals.
“I really enjoy seeing how he interacts with his patients,” Howard said. “Just seeing what he does on a day-to-day basis is really helpful.”
Mettry confirmed that Howard had completed an externship with his practice. He added that the program is good for students and physicians alike.
“I think any time someone is in a teaching position, it benefits the teacher because teaching is always two ways,” Mettry said. “It’s never a one-way street. There’s always the feeling that you’re helping someone who’s going to be helping others.”
Dr. William Pettit, associate dean of rural health at the College of Osteopathic Medicine, said the college encourages students to consider working as a primary care physician in a small community. He added that the externship program gives students a firsthand look at rural medicine.
“The big thing is to give them exposure to physicians in the actual world of medicine,” he said.
He said students are not required to sign up for the program, which typically attracts 15 to 25 participants each summer.