By Lukas Eggen
Ely Times Staff Writer

Two White Pine County residents were honored during Nevada Rural Health Day in November: Marie Carrick and Dr. G.N. Christensen. The two individuals have a long history serving White Pine County in keeping residents healthy.

“When you speak of dedication and commitment to community, they are the ultimate example,” Keith Clark said. “Dr. Christensen has spent 45 years serving White Pine County and Marie Carrick 50. That would be an outstanding accomplishment anywhere, but it takes a special individual to accomplish this in a rural setting.”
Finding someone dedicated to any community is difficult, Clark said. Finding one who is willing and loves to live and serve a rural community is even harder.

“In my current position at the Nevada State Office of Rural Health, I often help rural communities recruit health care providers,” Clark said. “It is a very difficult task because of the compensation and convenience of urban practice. Many are afraid of the isolation. Those who stay in rural Nevada do it because they have the appreciation and dedication to the community exhibited by Marie Carrick and Dr. Christensen.”

Nevada Rural Health Day, which is part of a national rural health day, is aimed at identified the unique healthcare needs in rural areas of the country and finding ways to better serve those areas. And rural health care’s come a long ways Clark said.

“(I think it’s come) incredibly far,” Clark said. “As part of the celebration, rural hospitals presented old photos related to healthcare from their community. Rather than pictures, one person submitted a hospital bill and medical records from an individual admitted to their hospital in the early 1940s…And even more recent is advancement in rural healthcare is the advent of telemedicine. One example of this advancement can be illustrated by comparing rural accident victims of the recent past and those of today.”
Telemedicine can improve the quality and the speed of treatment and diagnosis a patient receives, which in some cases could save lives.

“In the past if an accident victim was brought to the emergency room suffering trauma, they could be waiting a long time before it could be determined if or what bones were broken,” Clark said. “…A patient could wait for days to hear from radiologists in Reno or Las Vegas to find out if or what was broken. Even extreme emergency cases involved running down to the Greyhound bus station and handing the driver x-rays to be taken to an urban radiologist. Today, all rural facilities use teleradiology and send their x-rays digitally over the Internet.”

While rural healthcare has come a long ways, Clark said he’s also excited to see what new areas rural healthcare can improve in. Among the most promising to Clark is the use of telehealth, which will help prevent patients from traveling hundreds of miles and receive more treatment locally.

“Instead of sending rural patients 250 miles to the city to see a specialist, the primary care physician can receive consultation from faculty at the University of Nevada School of Medicine and then apply the treatment locally,” Clark said. “This enables the local physicians to increase his or her knowledge base and provide the care themselves…the patients are never in front of the camera, just their healthcare provider presenting their patient’s case.”

Nevada Rural Health Day served as a celebration to those who are dedicated to living and helping rural areas. And, as they honored Carrick, Dr. Christensen and more, it was a chance to say thank you for their years of work.

“You honor behavior that you would like to hold up as an example and see repeated,” Clark said. “As mentioned earlier, finding the person with the ‘right stuff’ to work in rural America is challenging. We felt we needed to show our appreciation for those with the ‘right stuff’. We wanted to communicate to them our admiration and to share in the communities’ appreciation of their dedicated service.”