TULSA, Okla — Roughly one million Oklahomans live in rural areas across the state. And according to the Rural Health Association of Oklahoma there’s less than 300 rural healthcare facilities to serve them.
Saturday, the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine welcomed future doctors during its white coat ceremony for its class of 2026.
Tulsa native, Keeley Kirkland is one of those students. Kirkland grew up watching her parents make a difference in her community. Her dad is a police officer and her mom is a social worker. So when it came time to decide what she wanted to do as a career, she chose to become a doctor.
"I’m really interested in the rural medicine track that OSU offers. Just because Oklahoma has a lot of room to improve on their rankings in healthcare so I think that staying in Oklahoma and reaching those rural communities that are sometimes under privileged and I think that’s a really important way that we can improve the health in Oklahoma,” said Kirkland.
Working in rural medicine is a large focus at OSU. The OSU family pride itself on giving all Oklahomans access to healthcare, and finding medical students who understand the need.
“You don’t have to train somebody about the challenges if they grew up there. They know, they’ve experienced it. They’ve had grandparents that couldn’t make it to the hospital in time for instance. They’ve had to travel to do well child checks and get their own immunizations,” said Professor of Family Medicine, Dr. Christopher Thurman D.O.
As Kirkland begins her medical school journey, she won’t be alone. Her big brother Ben is a third year medical student at the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine. She said watching him put in the hard work to get to where he is, inspires her to do the same.
“When you put this coat on, you’re stepping up to the challenge and the challenges we’re going to have in medical school. Which I know is gonna be a pretty large feat, but I'm really excited for it and I’m excited to step up to that challenge,” said Kirkland.
Kirkland's parents, Carrie and Matt they said they are incredibly proud of having two future doctors in the family.
“I think that’s also very fulfilling to know that you’ve passed on those values and that desire to your children for the to go out and make the community a better place,” said Matt Kirkland.
Kirkland said she hasn’t decided what her specialty will be but, she said whatever she chooses, she’s staying right here in Oklahoma and will do her best to give back to her community just like her parents and big brother have done before her.
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