By Jennifer Broaddus, The News On 6
CLAREMORE, OK -- Oklahoma ranks last in the nation for the doctor to patient ratio.
The Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians calls it a critical shortage -- 59 of Oklahoma's 77 counties don't meet the national standard of one primary care doctor for every 3,500 residents. Lawmakers warn it could get worse.
But a Green Country teacher is helping build the foundation for Oklahoma's health care system. Students at Claremore High School might someday help the state overcome the shortage.
"Next semester I'm starting at vo-tech and I'm going to be training to be an LPN, a licensed practitioner nurse, so the biomedical program is really helping me prepare for that because it's definitely a head start in the medical field," said Ashley Faulkner, who is a junior at Claremore High School.
Julie Stewart leads a biomedical program that encourages students to take advanced classes in math and science. Students can also join a club, Health Occupation Students of America or HOSA. The club gives them a chance to put their skills to the test.
"When they're completed, they've learned tons about the body, they've learned all kinds of career choices and it really sets them and they kind of know what they want to do when they are leaving," said Stewart.
It's a hands-on approach that Stewart says will help the students out of the classroom and in the hospital.
HOSA students go to competitions where they test their skills in anatomy, medical terminology and ethics. It's the fourth year Stewart has taken a group to a statewide contest and now 15 students will go to nationals at Walt Disney World in June.
"It opens up a lot of things. It prepares me for different speeches. I'm going to be doing a lot of presentation in college, even leading teams, like my own team when I become a doctor," said Chance Perry, who is a junior at Claremore High School.
It's hard work that Stewart says will give students an edge in college examinations and ultimately in the exam room.
"These are the kinds of kids we want locally to work for us and I've already got my health care ready for when they graduate college -- a pharmacist, a gynecologist and endocrinologist. I have all these types of students and if I, as the teacher, would use them as a patient, that says a lot for them," said Stewart.
The students are raising money to pay for their trip to Florida and still need about $5,000. You can make a contribution by writing a check to Claremore High School, attention Julie Stewart.