Doctor-to-be: Sydnee Burke’s goal to bring healthcare to rural GA

Published 3:24 pm Wednesday, February 28, 2024

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There are few other professions as noble, or as demanding, as that of a doctor. Helping the sick naturally requires both a strong mind and drive, both for the nature of the work, as well as the years of studying necessary for it.

Local Sydnee Burke possesses both, as she is currently pursuing a career in medicine, specifically rural healthcare, at Mercer University. Having grown up in rural Georgia, Burke said, “I have seen firsthand the need for rural physicians through the lens of a patient and as a student shadowing providers in rural areas.”

Burke always had a desire to both help, as well as teach, people in her community.

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“When I was very young, if you had asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have told you a teacher just like my mom,” she said. “I admired her deeply for her drive to help others learn and succeed and for her dedication to being an educator. Though I decided I did not want to be a teacher in the classroom, I felt I was instead called to be an educator in clinics and hospitals, giving back to my community by caring for the people within it.”

Burke would go on to shadow physicians in college, solidifying this as her career path, with a focus on family medicine and obstetrics/gynecology.

“Family medicine appeals to me because I believe in the importance of providing comprehensive, multi-generational care while also developing long-term relationships with patients and their families,” she stated. “However, with that being said I am also extremely passionate about women’s health,” she added, stating she wanted to provide “evidence-based care” to women from prenatal care to childbirth, as well as focusing on general reproductive health.

Whether family medicine or ob/gyn will be her practice is still up in the air at the moment: “The decision of which specialty I choose to practice will become clearer to me during my third year of medical school when I begin clinical rotations.”

Touching back on her desire to serve rural Georgia, Burke discussed how underserved many rural communities are, with nine counties lacking any physician at all, and many more lacking certain kinds, such as pediatricians or ob/gyn.

“Beyond the lack of physicians, rural areas of Georgia are also home to higher rates of chronic disease, limited access to healthcare facilities, poverty, limited health education, and uninsured individuals,” she said. “As someone attending a medical school that strives to produce more primary care physicians that will return to serve the numerous rural areas of Georgia, I am learning how best to be an advocate for patients from rural areas while also learning how I can become the most attentive rural physician I can be.”

Burke recently received the Nathan Deal scholarship, a highly selective scholarship that focuses on those with “deep ties to rural Georgia”, as well as those that may serve underserved areas. In fact, that’s a requirement of the scholarship; in exchange for covering tuition to Mercer University’s School of Medicine, scholarship recipients are expected to return to a rural county in Georgia and practice primary care for at least four years.

Burke is currently just in her first year of medical school, with three left, followed by three to four years in a residency program.

“Though I still have a long road ahead of me, I have been enjoying every minute of school and look forward to the years ahead,” she said. “I am truly grateful to Bainbridge and my family for their unwavering support throughout my journey. It brings me so much comfort to know that no matter how difficult my journey in medicine will be, I will always have a community that supports me and believes in me.