May 27, 2011
By Cori Ast
Andrew Pirotte, who is training to become an emergency medicine physician, is not often fazed by the unpredictable.
So when Pirotte spent the month of March in Tribune, Kan. as part of the school's required rural preceptorship program, he expected to see a variety of medical cases. Pirotte, however, did not anticipate becoming part of the local political scene.
"It was my first night back in Tribune and, my preceptor, Dr. Fahrenholtz asked if I wanted to go to a community meeting," said Pirotte, who had also spent four weeks in Tribune for an optional third year rural clerkship. The topic on the agenda was an upcoming vote on a mill levy that would build new hospital facilities.
The meeting had barely started when the pair was called back to the emergency department, a typical experience in a county with only three physicians. On their drive to the hospital, Pirotte told Fahrenholtz how glad he was to be back in Tribune and why he loved their community.
"I told him that physicians in Tribune are excellent and they treat students with such respect," recalled Pirotte.
Fahrenholtz asked Pirotte to share those thoughts upon their return to the meeting. Pirotte agreed.
"So I found out I was speaking a minute before I stood up to give a presentation," said Pirotte. "It was easy to deliver. I was just honest with everyone there."
It turns out honesty is indeed the best policy. When the mill levy issue came up for a vote on April 5, the county's citizens approved it.
"The voice of a rural physician carries so much weight because providers have what's best for the community in mind, not their personal interests," explained Pirotte. "It was profound to see that influence and watch it in action. In medical school, you don't think that way. You're just trying to learn the science of medicine and make it through school."
Although Pirotte had never participated in politics, the influence of physicians in a small community was not a new concept for the Joplin, Mo. native. Pirotte is the son of two physicians.