As a full-length feature film, “Doc Yakima” probably wouldn’t be a commercial success.
Here’s the outline for a potential script: Young wanna-be doctor comes to Central Washington community to attend med school. Student becomes one of several hundred who study the intricacies of osteopathic medicine at school that emphasizes service in medically underserved areas.
Student stays enrolled long enough to begin clinical rotations. Extremely contagious pandemic rolls across the globe. Student still has coursework but is pulled from clinical rotation, giving student time on his or her hands.
Here’s where the script goes off the rails. In a typical feature film, there would be a stream of parties, toxic relationships and misunderstandings. There might even be a climactic scene where the med student performs unaided emergency surgery in some isolated locale. But not in our story. This student has a higher calling. He or she joins a group that finds creative and useful ways to help their community in time of extreme need.
Group members start with child care for fellow health care workers. They begin collecting personal protective gear. They make educational and encouragement videos and are adept in several social media platforms.
The group grows. Soon, they’re writing thank-you notes to truck drivers who deliver supplies, corresponding and shopping for isolated seniors and, yes, wait for it … sewing masks. They call themselves Yakima vs. COVID-19. They even get help from other med students from their school who have been placed out of state.
Nah. It’ll never sell. Where’s the conflict? The drama?
It might work, however, as a documentary. The entire script you’ve just read is a true-life story, starring several dozen students at Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences and its partnering health care programs. Yakima vs. COVID-19 is a very real, active entity, with members always on the lookout for the next helpful activity. In addition to the above-mentioned projects, students took swabs and organized test samples at the recent drive-thru coronavirus testing site at State Fair Park, and they hope for more opportunities to use their medical training in the near future.
No conflict. No drama. Young people suddenly had a bit of extra time and decided to spend that time seeking out ways they could serve others and advance their ultimate mission.
“This for all of us just felt like a very natural thing to do,” said Maycee Gielow, a third-year student, in a recent Herald-Republic story. “There are people who need help, and we wanted to be part of the solution. If we can’t be out on the front lines, for good reasons, maybe we can find other needs and help them get met.
“It’s an honor to help a community that has come to mean a lot to me, and I think a lot of us would feel the same way.”
It’s encouraging that these students take their core calling as healers so seriously, and equally encouraging that they embrace PNWU’s mission “to educate physicians to serve rural and medically underserved areas in the Pacific Northwest.” Efforts by PNWU and other local medical providers to expose young medical professionals to the glories and needs of the Yakima Valley could possibly pay dividends in the form of a more stable provider population for our medically underserved area in future generations. The trend is positive right now; health service jobs were up nearly 10% in Yakima County in 2018 compared with 2016, according to a recent Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages report.
There might very well be the occasional party and/or toxic relationship at PNWU. But no doubt there’s also a big chunk of the student body that is making the most of this unique time by choosing to step out and give help to those who need it most: Our essential medical providers and our most vulnerable residents. If Yakima vs. COVID-19 is any indication, the future of rural health care in Washington is in good hands.
To these young medical professionals in training, we say thank you — and please stay.
Roll the closing credits.