Homegrown Doctors to Practice in SC

Monday, April 29th, 2019

For Laine Way, there was never a question about what she wanted to do when she grew up.

The fourth-year medical student has wanted to be a family medicine doctor since kindergarten. She says her early interest in medicine was sparked by Dr. Clarence Coker, her childhood physician in Manning, S.C.

“I wanted to go back to a small town and form those lifelong relationships and relate things to patients in a way that really improved their health, like Dr. Coker did for me and my family,” says Way.

Students like Way who want to practice primary care in rural communities are essential to the health of South Carolina and beyond. Especially since the American Association of Medical Colleges predicts a growing and aging population could lead to a shortfall of as many as 50,000 primary care physicians by 2030.

Way has remained committed to her goal, graduating from Manning High School in 2011 and enrolling at the University of South Carolina. She excelled as a student in the South Carolina Honors College and the College of Arts and Sciences, earning a biology degree in 2015, before joining the UofSC School of Medicine Columbia.

In 2017, she began her clinical training at the school’s Florence Regional Campus program. The program includes clinical rotations at McLeod Health and MUSC Health Florence, previously Carolinas Hospital System. For Way, being part of the Florence program was an easy decision since it meant she’d be less than an hour from her hometown of Manning and able to treat patients from her own community.

I was never getting this medical degree for myself, it was for the betterment of my community and the people that I would one day serve.

Laine Way, UofSC School of Medicine, Class of 2019

On May 10, Way’s dream will be realized when she’s awarded her Doctor of Medicine degree. Later this summer, she’ll begin the next stage of her training, when she starts her residency in family medicine at McLeod Health in Florence. Way will be joined at McLeod by her UofSC classmates Parker Edison and Miranda McCoy.

Edison, who’s originally from Traveler’s Rest, S.C., also completed his clinical education at the Florence Regional Campus. Edison and Way were drawn to the Florence program because of its direct access to patients and attending physicians, as well as its focus on rural and primary care. They ultimately chose to pursue residency in Florence for the same reasons.

“Working with McLeod as a medical student, I saw the capacity of their residents,” Way says. “That is what ultimately drove my decision. I knew once I finished my residency, I would be able to go back to a small town and be comfortable in my white coat taking care of whatever patients came my way.”

Edison said he went into his residency search looking for a program that would allow him to continue the individualized learning experience he had found in Florence. After interviewing with numerous programs in the Southeast, he decided he’d already found the best fit at McLeod.

“Since Laine and I have already been here for two years, we feel connected to the hospital and the community. I feel like we’ll be able to jump in and really make a difference,” Edison says.

For Edison, the connection to Florence and McLeod goes even further. Last fall, he was able to deliver his first child, a daughter named Miriam at the McLeod Regional Medical Center. Most of Edison’s family lives in western North Carolina, a two-hour drive from most medical specialists, so he says he understands the challenges faced by those in rural communities. He also feels being raised and educated in South Carolina has given him a unique understanding of the culture and dynamics of the state, as well as the unique medical needs of its more rural areas.

“We’re excited to be able to stay longer in the community. If not for Florence, I don’t know if I would be the same physician that I’m going to be or the same resident. I feel like my experiences here will give me even more to offer whatever community I eventually work in.”

Historically more than half of UofSC's School of Medicine M.D. alumni have chosen to stay in South Carolina to practice. In fact, 1,349 of 2,474 M.D. alumni currently live and practice in South Carolina.

Way hopes to be number 1,350.

“I never really saw myself anywhere other than back home. There is a huge need for new family medicine physicians, and it is really hard to recruit someone to practice in a rural area, unless they have a tie to a small town,” Way says.

“I was never getting this medical degree for myself, it was for the betterment of my community and the people that I would one day serve.”