Flying through rural health care

Darin Allred, a new orthopedic surgeon at South Lincoln Medical Center. // From Darin Allred

Darin Allred’s interest in being an orthopedic surgeon began in high school, where his job was to transport patients after surgery and clean rooms. Between his tasks, Allred would watch the surgeries taking place. Since then, Allred has been hooked on orthopedic surgery.

“I get to fix people and make them whole again,” Allred said.

Although he has been all over, working in Denver was the most impactful for him.

“It was incredibly busy,” Allred said. “I learned everything there that I could learn and do.” Allred said he missed patient from small, rural towns.

“They are down-to-earth and more appreciative,” Allred said. This is when he took the deep dive into rural medicine.

Allred now travels between Ely, Nevada; Rock Springs; and now, Kemmerer. And yes, he means Nevada. Ely, Nevada is in the middle of Nevada and four hours from anywhere, according to Allred. With a population of 4,000, they don’t attract many surgeons.

“These hospitals are a huge part of their communities,” Allred said. “They struggle financially. Surgery makes money for the hospital, but many doctors leave them for other places. This is happening all across the U.S.”

Allred’s passion is rural medicine; he said he gets to do all kinds of surgeries he wouldn’t if he were in an urban area. More doctors super specialize in specific surgeries in the cities.

“[Rural medicine] is more challenging academically,” Allred said. “Most doctors are workaholics and like being challenged.”

That’s why two years ago, Allred went through classes and received his license to fly. Once a week he is in Ely and Rock Springs and once every other week he is in Kemmerer.

One thing Allred can’t wait for is the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I want to look people in the eye and shake their hands again,” Allred said.

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