BELTON — To say that going to the doctor is a hassle for Bartlett resident Barbara Sandobal is putting it mildly.

“You have to budget half a tank of gas for a simple blood test,” said Sandobal, president of the Bartlett Area Chamber of Commerce. “We have no doctors here, nothing. It’s 25 miles one-way to the clinic. And people on fixed incomes can’t always afford the gas.”

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A primary reason for the lack of rural doctors has historically been the medical school application process. While in college I interfaced with many pre med students who took "classes" for the application. They, like I, were astounded on some of the answers that would be positively considered. Instead of answering that they wanted to help people and be assets to the community, the more acceptable response was to the effect "I want to make a lot of money and have a lot of prestige."

Another problem is that doctors often have young wives who prefer the city's social and economic advantages. In discussions with young interns, especially single ones, I would tell them, "If you want immediate acceptance; immediate prominence; immediate respect; immediate credit, etc. go to a small town. You can marry the town's best prospect; hold any civic office you want, and on and on." Very few listened.

For years I have encouraged the utilization of nurse practitioners in such underserved areas. A well trained nurse can handle most medical situations as well as - and often better than many institutional physicians such as those that are increasingly gravitating to hospitals and healthcare organizations. Those nurse practitioners I have known are more caring, more considerate, more objective, and more cautious as well. Their required physician oversight gives another layer of safety, and they know their limitations. They may well be the answer to the "looming physician shortage."

The areas listed in this article should get together and actively solicit a nurse practitioner or two to service their populace. They will get better, more immediate care, and their medical professional will be a member of the community. For a prime working example, they might want to send a committee north to the little town of Groesbeck.


There are many parts of Rural Texas that are underserved, but complaining about 25 miles one way is not underserved. Half a tank of gas? Most people's cars get at least 20 mpg now, so at $3 per gallon we are talking about nine dollars. Cut out a meal at Mcdonald's. You aren't underserved.

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