Like every young doctor, Douglas E. Kopp, M.D., had big dreams. But they didn’t involve a major clinic or institute. Instead, this 1982 graduate was thinking small – small town that is.
"I felt I wanted to practice somewhere that needed an ophthalmologist and didn’t have one; not somewhere where I would just be another choice among many providing a similar service," Dr. Kopp said.
After a long search and a series of coincidences, his dream came true. Dr. Kopp is a successful ophthalmologist in Plainview, Texas. He’s been the only one practicing in almost a 100-mile radius for the past 17 years – a true hero to those in his rural community and truly a reminder of what medicine is all about.
"When I began practicing in a rural setting, it gave me the opportunity to do what I went into medicine for – provide care where it was needed. I think that is still true today," Dr. Kopp said. "Many of my patients simply would not get care at all if I were not here. This gives me tremendous professional satisfaction."
But all small towns come with a big price tag: a tremendous amount of responsibility. Since Dr. Kopp is the only ophthalmologist around, he’s always on call. "I take calls over 300 days a year," he said. And although he gets to run things the way he’d like at the local hospital, he is committed to more than just his patients.
Dr. Kopp served on every committee at the hospital medical staff level and has been chief of staff twice. He’s in his sixth year on the governing board.
The rural doctor also takes a harder hit when it comes to managed care and Medicaid cuts. Technology is harder to afford and a good staff is more difficult to find.
But the challenges yield incredible rewards. Dr. Kopp gets to be a little more versatile than his urban counterparts. "I can continue to do the things I was trained to do that many ‘big city’ ophthalmologists can’t do because of the availability of subspecialists," Dr. Kopp said. And most importantly, he has the relationship he always wanted with his patients. "Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t thank me for being in Plainview for them," he said. He recommends all medical students consider careers in rural medicine. And if you consider what he’s doing, could you really find a bigger success story? Maybe you’d have to look in a smaller town.
UT Health Science Center
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