Future doctors who plan to practice in rural Alabama recently learned how important medial care could be to farmers and others living outside metropolitan areas.
Auburn University students enrolled in the Rural Medicine Program (RMP) visited Harry and Joy Nobles’ farm near Shorter in Macon County, Oct. 24.
The RMP is sponsored by the University of Alabama School of Medicine (UASOM) and Auburn University’s College of Sciences and Mathematics (COSAM). It is a “sister” program to the Rural Medical Scholars Program (RMSP), jointly sponsored by UASOM and the College of Community Health Sciences at the University of Alabama. Both programs are supported by Alfa Insurance and the Alabama Farmers Federation and are designed to increase the number of family-practice physicians serving rural Alabama.
While on the Nobleses’ farm, students saw heavy equipment in operation and heard farmer Andrew Gettys’ tragic story about a farm accident that nearly killed him.
Gettys was 21 years old when he fell from a tractor pulling a disc harrow. The tractor tire crushed his head and pelvis, and he was run over by the disc. Suffering from multiple deep lacerations and his foot nearly severed, he lay conscious and unable to move for nearly three hours until help arrived.
“It was quite an experience and a miracle that I survived,” Gettys said. “If you look at me now, you’d never know something like that happened. I have some scars, I’m missing some toes, and I have some aches and pains. But I’m happy to be alive, and I’m still farming.”
Gettys, 42, lives in Auburn and farms about 350 acres in Macon County where he grows cotton, peanuts and grains. Students listened intently about his emergency medical treatment from a Montgomery hospital, which he credits with saving his life.
It’s a story Gettys has told to AU’s Dr. Keith Bufford and his students for several years. Bufford is the brother of Joy Noble.
“It’s important for these students to see common farming risks firsthand,” Bufford said. “It helps students understand how they can be proactive in preventing farm-related medical issues.”
Harry Noble agrees.
“We have hosted the rural medical students for several years on our farm,” he said. “I like talking to the students. Some of them have never been on a farm. I think hearing Andrew’s story makes its personal for them.”
Phillip Ingram, 22, was among the Auburn’s RMP students who visited the Nobleses’ farm. He said growing up in Sylacauga, he wasn’t exposed to agriculture and learning more about his future patients will help him be a better doctor one day.
“I plan to go into family medicine in rural Alabama, and it’s important to know about the people I’ll be working with to help provide them the best care,” Ingram said. “At the farm, I saw things I guess I never realized were so dangerous. There’s a lot of big equipment that farmers have to use caution around, but it’s also important for farmers to take steps to protect themselves against things like hearing loss and sun damage.”