Where I come from, it’s not common to leave our small town.

I grew up on a dairy farm in southern Idaho, and that experience has shaped the kind of doctor I want to be. As the youngest of four brothers, it meant a lot to me to be given responsibility at a young age. From my father and brothers, I learned that if you’re going to do something, from hauling hay to vaccinating the herd, you take it on and do it right.

As I finished middle school, my oldest brother went to medical school, and that’s when I began to think about becoming a doctor. That dream solidified as I got older and took on more responsibility around the farm.

I intend to bring all the education and experiences I’ve gained to provide care that my community can trust and rely on.

Just after I graduated high school, I was left to oversee the dairy when another one of my brothers and his wife were out of town. I went out before bed to check on things and noticed a pregnant cow in labor. I watched her as I did some extra tasks around the barn and realized she wasn’t going to get it on her own. While I had assisted with many other births on the farm, this would be my first solo experience. As I helped her, it was quiet and dark outside. Once the baby was born and breathing and I could see the mom was okay, I felt deeply satisfied. It was another reminder of the fulfillment of hard work and helping others.

A necessary departure

While my family, community and experiences at the dairy shaped me in foundational ways, I knew I needed to leave to gain more education and skills. Part of leaving included learning Spanish and living in Spain for my church mission, then on to college and medical school at the University of Washington School of Medicine. So far, medical school has been quite a journey.

As part of the school’s Rural Underserved Opportunities Program (RUOP), I worked for a month side-by-side with Lance Hansen, MD ‘09, in Montpelier, Idaho — my hometown high school’s rival town. There, I saw and wanted to emulate his strong connections with the community. Today, he continues to be my mentor, and I will be doing a rotation with him at his new practice in my hometown hospital, Franklin County Medical Center in Preston.

In the WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho) program, while it’s been hard to move to a different place every six weeks, the learning opportunities have been tremendous. I’ve worked alongside a surgeon in Caldwell, Idaho, and in a pediatric clinic and neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in Pocatello, Idaho.

Building on my foundational first two years, I’m currently getting experience in family practice at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, Washington.

These opportunities have made it clear that leaving was a good decision. But I always hoped I’d be able to come back home to care for my community.

Scholarships make coming back possible

Before medical school, I didn’t know scholarships existed. What a welcome surprise! It’s a privilege to have the help of scholarships. They’ve made me feel supported and accepted and eased my financial worry.

In addition to helping students like me finish medical school, scholarships have the potential to encourage more people, especially from small towns, to realize it’s possible to go to medical school in the first place.

This support also allows me to pick my future path without basing my decisions on money. I’m not interested in becoming a specialist in a big city. While that’s the right path for some, I’m not a city person, and I want to be close to home. After all, my family still runs our dairy farm, and they still need my help from time to time.

Given my experiences, I’m considering going into family practice or becoming a pediatrician. As a Spanish speaker, I already communicate with employees at the dairy, and I also plan to use that skill as a doctor to be sure Spanish-speaking families are getting their well-kid visits and other care.

I also know that families have to decide whether to travel to see a big-city doctor versus going to a rural doctor. I want to make the decision to stay easy — and have it be their preferred option.

No matter what kind of doctor I become, I intend to bring all the education and experiences I’ve gained to provide care that my community can trust and rely on.

As told to Alice Skipton

You can train tomorrow's medical leaders

Help students like Wyatt learn to care for their rural communities by making a gift to the UW Medicine Scholarship Fund.