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Rural Emergency Medicine: Stigma & Stereotypes

Lee Falls, SC

I practice in the rural, northwest corner of South Carolina, also known as “The Upstate.”  It is a place of expansive lakes, white-water rivers and the mist covered foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The area includes thousands of acres of Sumter National Forest.  The natural beauty is breathtaking.  Sumter National Forest and our various parks are laced with hiking trails, which are lined with unique plants and trees, some found nowhere else.   Fish and game abound.  In fact, our wooded hospital grounds support a flock of at least 30 wild turkey.  And last deer season, the only deer I saw were the three does grazing at the end of the ED driveway one night, spotlighted by two of our paramedics.

We have a lot of wonderful things here, things that are gifts of the rural life.  We have good people, the salt of the earth types who care about personal morality and Southern courtesy.  People who bring you a glass of sweet tea when your car breaks down.  We live with a low crime rate, and minimal illicit drug use compared with more populated areas.  It is a good place to raise children.  It’s also a cool place to practice, where a busy summer shift can bring an acute MI, a near drowning (from inner-tubing on Class IV white water while drunk), a pit viper bite, a bull goring and many other pathologies, more or less interesting.

But, as physicians in a rural area, we pay a price.  Because we have to endure a certain stigma.   Read more »

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