TULSA, Oklahoma - Cord Gothard can see himself in these unsure high school kids. The Cord of five years ago just graduated from his own high school class of '22.
Wondering if he dare dream that there might be a way from Velma, Oklahoma, to medical school.

"Just having the general interest of figuring out is this the right path for me and being able to come here and learn a lot about what it takes to be a doctor reminds me a lot of myself," Gothard said. "I wish there was something like this for me whenever I was a high school student."

That's when a family doctor friend suggested Cord consider medical school. Something all of these young people have an inkling they'd like to try, too.
So the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine's summer camp pairs them with second-year medical students like Cord for a day of dreaming of what might be.

Because many times the kids in rural Oklahoma don't have someone who is a physician or someone who is encouraging them or can actually tell them this is the path you need to take.

"I think coming to a camp like this and having someone tell you you can do whatever you want and be engaged in the medical field, I think it really helps and it's really cool to be able to do the activities they have here."

Their state is one of the nation's unhealthiest. A shortage of doctors of all kinds, but especially primary care, is a big reason why. Oklahoma has about 76 doctors for every hundred-thousand residents. 

The national average is 220 for every hundred-thousand people. Seventy-two of our 77 counties are designated as having a shortage of primary care physicians. Thirty of them have ten or fewer doctors of any kind. We're 43rd in the nation for doctors per capita, 48th for primary care physicians. 
Which all adds up to 46th in the nation for overall health. So OSU's Medical School is in the grinding slog to turn that around. Hoping to convince kids like Taylor Witham that the life a small town Oklahoma doctor comes with its own special rewards.

And he's willing to listen.

Witham said, "I just envision it as being there, or being a guide to help people better themselves and that's basically what I want to do with my life is just help other people and further them and allow them to be better or get better. You know? Yeah." 

"We can't wait until they're graduating from medical school to say 'hey, did you think about this?' We start when they're in high school and even middle school in some places and say here's what you need to do and make it easy for them to achieve their goals."

Though "easy" isn't a word the future Doctor Gothard uses.

"It's really challenging, mentally, physically, spiritually, and it takes a lot of dedication and a good support system."

It's a challenge JoDee Johnson's willing to consider as she thinks about leaving, and eventually returning, to Grove.

"I mean the town needs doctors, it needs medical people and I think it wouldn't be hard to do. Definitely come back. I mean it's my town," Johnson said.

And service to those who sent you on your way in life, say those who've gone before her to wear the white coat, is the greatest service of all.

"When you live in a town your entire life you're bound to grow sick of it, for sure, that's where I was, but moving off and getting away from it kind of changes your perspective of how much that town helped you and how much you actually loved it and the people in the town."

"I can't think of anything more rewarding and more noble than going to serve a community that's given back to you."