Rural medicine is quite unlike that depicted in the painting hanging on the wall of the South Dakota community hospital where I practice. In that painting, a country doctor's horse and buggy stand outside a warmly lit farmhouse. Next to the house is an idyllic pond, with a formation of wild geese framing the sunset, and the viewer can easily imagine that the physician is inside delivering the perfect baby.
This false picture of rural medicine is rubbed out as the reader progresses through the diverse museum of short stories, essays, and poems captured within the pages of The Country Doctor Revisited: A Twenty-First Century Reader. Like a fine-arts master, editor Therese Zink brings experiences and viewpoints from the folks living, surviving, and providing health care in less populated areas of this country. Forty years ago, my teachers at the University of South Dakota School of Medicine promoted a humble rural point of view: to learn the art of medicine in this rural state, one must understand how to provide the highest-level, most complex and technical modern health care as well as minimalist medicine when resources are scarce. But this Twenty-First Century Reader shows that there is something more about practicing the art of medicine in rural America.