- Associated Press - Sunday, December 14, 2014

LEPANTO, Ark. (AP) - An old farmer walked into the Wagner Medical Center complaining about a pain in his hand. His hand had been impaled with a wooden stake.

He only trusted Dr. Andrea Read to treat him, the Jonesboro Sun (https://bit.ly/1uliuYt ) reported.

“I’m not going anywhere else,” he told her. “I want you to take care of me.”

The medical center wasn’t the right facility to handle such a severe injury. After some cajoling, Read convinced the man to go to Memphis, helping him find the people that could treat his injury.

Read didn’t expect to work Lepanto, working as a medical doctor. She started her career pursuing research opportunities.

Her first research job was as a support specialist at the NASA office in Washington, D.C.

“I only assisted in bits and pieces of research,” she said. “I was a very small part of the whole.”

She also did peer review research, helping to decide what would and would not go on the shuttle and into the space station.

“A lot of the projects I worked on never made it,” she said. “They were on the Columbia.”

That research was lost, along with the lives of seven crew members in the 2003 Columbia disaster.

Wanting to advance her career, she was pushed by some of her mentors to get a higher degree.

She chose to enter medicine at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, something to complement her degrees in biology and chemistry. Soon after, she decided to pursue a path different from research.

“Going through medical school, I realized pretty early on I really enjoy working with people,” Read said. “There isn’t a lot of interaction in basic research.”

She settled on Lepanto. She said “it just felt right.”

Read cares for a full gamut of people, in what she calls “womb-to-tomb” care. Lepanto only has a population of about 1,800, but the medical center where she works serves about 3,000 people in the area.

“I had no idea where I would end up,” she said. “But it’s been a really good fit.”

Residents in the area were leery of Read when she arrived in Lepanto two years ago. But she soon gained their trust.

“A lot of people were concerned I’d leave, that I’d only stay for a few months,” Read said.

Now she has been there for over two years, and it didn’t take long for word to get around about the good doctor.

“D.C. is a rat race,” she said. “You’ll run yourself ragged there.”

She said she quickly learned just how underserved the Lepanto area is. Since she arrived, she has been finding long-untreated and undiagnosed issues with her patients.

Read said the vaccination rate in the area was way below the national average.

She worked with four school districts in the area over a three-month period to bus children in for physicals and examinations.

“Manila bussed in 35 kids a day for a couple weeks to vaccinate,” she said. “But I would not vaccinate until I gave a child a physical.”

Read is helping her patients battle obesity, malnourishment, previously undiagnosed cancers and fighting to keep children up-to-date on their vaccinations.

“I couldn’t anticipate the need,” she said.

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Information from: The Jonesboro Sun, https://www.jonesborosun.com

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