Filipino Physicians Practice in the Panhandle

Article excerpt

GUYMON, Okla. (AP) -- Filipino physicians are becoming the prominent health care providers for a growing number of residents in the Oklahoma Panhandle.

Six Filipino physicians, including Dr. Martin Bautista and his wife, Dr. Sylvia Tan, are working in Texas County. Bautista said that when he finished his residency in New York City in 1996, he could return to the Philippines and probably enjoy a familiar life or maintain his U.S. visa by practicing medicine in an underserved area. He and his wife checked out their options including several small towns in Wyoming and Alaska. They selected Guymon. "What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger," said Bautista, jokingly.

Memorial Hospital in Guymon is a 47-bed facility with contracts with 18 physicians.

Medicine is a family affair there, with Tan's sister, Stella Tan, practicing as one of three doctors in Beaver County. Up the road in Elkhart, Kan., all eight doctors practicing are from the Philippines. The first arrived in 1975. Sylvia Tan said Oklahoma medicine has its benefits for the young family.

She said it helps her balance her medical career with her desire to be a good mother to their two small children. "I still get to practice medicine on a meaningful level, but I don't miss out on time with our children because I'm on a subway or caught up in an 80- hour workweek," Tan said. "That's how it would have been in a big hospital. I would have been challenged to the max as a doctor and a mom at the same time."

The first Filipino doctors to establish practices in Guymon were general surgeon Dr. …