Rural Doc Brings it Home

With over 40 years of medical experience in a rural community, alumna, Maurice Wilkinson, MD, (‘72) knows first-hand what limited healthcare in small-town Texas looks like.

“For anyone who doesn’t think there’s a need for medical care in rural Texas, I wish they’d come spend a day with me and see how many people line up and call and ask for care and can’t get it because there’s only a certain number of slots,” Wilkinson said.  

“Access to care is not only about getting in to see a doctor; it’s about dying because you don’t have care. It’s about living on a ranch 50 miles from the closest doctor or being in a town that’s 25 miles away; the only ambulance in the county is out, and there’s nobody that can come and help you. The access to healthcare problem is very real in rural Texas.” 

- Maurice Wilkinson, MD ('72)

The people of Flatonia, TX, where Wilkinson spent her youth fishing and riding horses, understood the need for local healthcare many years ago and worked together to support a young woman’s dream to become a country doctor in the 1970s—Wilkinson’s dream. 

 “When I decided to go to med school, I sat down with community leaders of Flatonia and we talked about the advantages of having a physician in town and what it would do for the community. Everybody agreed that they’d all sleep better at night if there was a doctor available to their town of 12,000 people.”

With a community commitment to bring a doctor to their region, the citizens pulled together to provide Wilkinson with a scholarship and low interest loan to help cover her medical school expenses.

“All they asked was that I practice in Flatonia for three years. I stayed 14 years.”

Even earlier, while pursuing her undergraduate degree in biology at SHSU, the support of others was influential to Wilkinson’s career path. 

“When I got to SHSU and met with my advisor, I told him I wanted to go to med school and he said ‘It’s going to be tough and you’re going to have to study hard, but we’ll get you there,’ and he did.”

While friends were skeptical and saw a teacher’s college as a doubtful path to med school, Wilkinson confidently stayed true to her plan.

“Everyone at Sam Houston was so supportive when they found out I wanted to go to med school that I knew I was going to get in somewhere, and I did. I got into every place where I applied except for one out-of-state school.”

Wilkinson completed her medical degree with honors at Texas Tech University School of Medicine. Today, serving the Hallettsville region of Texas, her primary specialty is Family Medicine. With experience in both solo primary practice and group primary care, she was nationally recognized as “The National Rural Health Practitioner of the Year” in 1998.

Affectionately known as “Doc” in the community, life as a family physician in rural Texas is ‘living the dream’ as far as Wilkinson is concerned. Her success has allowed her to pursue a life-long passion. What started as a hobby is today, a full business of competing, breeding and training American Paint Horses. Along with her trainer/business partner, she owns 26 horses on her ranch near Shiner, TX.

“Doc” also enjoys the diverse range of medical care that comprises her daily routine.

“The kind of things you see and treat are of such variety you never get tired of what you’re doing. That’s the beautiful part. When you go into Family Medicine, you get to do everything. I’ve been doing this for 40 plus years; I’m 68-years-old and I don’t want to quit.”

While planning to work for many years to come, she knows preparing for the future of healthcare in her community, beyond her working years, is vital.

“It is critical that we get more doctors. We’re really lucky if any of the towns around here have more than five doctors—and that’s a big deal. Most have only two or three,” she said.

“We’re blessed that we just signed on a new, young doctor who is right out residency. She went to a small school and wants to live in a small town. It’s a perfect fit, but the rest of us are all over the age of 65 and there’s no one coming to take our place.”

When it comes to developing new, rural family doctors to take the place of aging physicians, she sees Sam Houston State’s community-based approach as an “absolute perfect match” for a medical school.

“I think they are going to educate a whole legion of community-based doctors. The school will be in a beautiful area of Texas, surrounded by small towns. There are some great students in those small towns. Giving them a good education and preparing them to take care of the people in their communities is what needs to happen,” Wilkinson said. 

“We need to find a way to inject doctors back into small towns and I think Sam Houston can do that. Why Sam Houston? Because it’s perfect. It’s the absolute perfect place for a med school. There’s no better.”

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