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Dr. Kent Wright

Dr. Kent Wright

New family practice physician joins Sturgis clinic


News Staff - September 28, 2020

STURGIS, SD – It’s a long road from a dairy farm in Minnesota to a medical practice in rural South Dakota. But Dr. Kent Wright has made that journey. 

“It’s a long story,” he laughs.  “I grew up on a traditional family farm near Sebeka, MN. My Dad worked hard - we all did. Up before dawn and back in the barn after school, milking cows.”

When Kent had the opportunity to take over the family farm, he didn’t hesitate. After all, he had good memories of growing up on a dairy farm. “The highlight of the year for us was the county fair and state fair.  We had a purebred Holstein herd so we did a fair amount of showing. When we go to go down to Minneapolis for five days to the state fair, that was the highlight for the entire year.”

He adds, “When I bought the farm and took it over, we decided not to make it a big, commercial operation, focusing more on quality and not on quantity. I added more property to the farm so we were doing more field work and raising more crops.  And I also started working in embryo transfer.”

But all those decisions would come at a price too.  Somewhere between milking cows and mucking out barns to a farm office equipped with microscopes and cryogenic freezers, there was an ‘awakening’

“When I met my wife, she encouraged me to go to college and take my interest in embryo transfer to the next level. I always told her I was too old. By that point, I was in my 30’s and didn’t want to go back to school.”

He continued, “Then in 2009, the bottom fell out of the dairy market and I sold milk for the same price my Dad did in the 70’s. The decision had to be made as to, ‘how long are we going to ride this out or are we going to jump to something different’?”

The decision was to go back to school. “But it wasn’t as simple as that for me,” shares Dr. Wright.  “If I was going to make a trade of a third-generation farm, it was going to be a worthwhile trade.”

So, why not animal science instead of human science? “I had considered veterinarian medicine in a large animal setting.  But at that point, I was a little bit discouraged as to the direction agriculture was headed. I loved the family farms that focus on quality and really wasn’t a fan of corporate farms that focus on quantity. I didn’t want to be a herd veterinarian for a 1,000 cow operation.”

He completed the first two years of medical school in Dominica at Ross University School of Medicine and finished his clinical years in Saginaw, MI. While medical school and his family medicine residency at the University of Arkansas were challenging, Dr. Wright noticed he may have had a slight advantage since he was used to the long hours and hard work of a dairy producer.

"I come from a very rural place, so a lot of times when you have a problem, you need to figure your way through it," he said. "If I was delivering a calf that was breech and we were in the middle of a blizzard, I wasn't going to get help from a veterinarian. I had to figure it out."

It was during his residency when he realized he wanted to work with a rural population, or rather, people who reminded him of his friends and family. Dr. Wright grew up just outside of a town of 700. Rural activities like hunting, fishing and farming are close to his heart. He noticed that patients valued a doctor who understood their work and their background.

"There was a fair amount of agriculture there, and I found that was really a patient population that I connect very well with, because I understand what they do," he said. "That's my crowd."  Eleven years later, Dr. Wright has joined the family medicine team at the Sturgis Clinic.

We’ve all heard some form of the saying, “You can take the country out of the boy but you can’t take the boy out of the country. “I like space,” shares Dr. Wright. “I’ve always joked that if I can see my neighbors, it’s too close.  But, in order to sell the idea of buying land to my wife, I may have to include a reason why,” he laughs.

And what would that reason be? For Dr. Wright, it would be running a small herd of cattle. “In reality, it would be a stress reliever for me.”

There were any number of offers from around the country to practice medicine but Dr. Wright chose Monument Health and Sturgis. “Word got out in placement agencies that I was looking for a position in a rural area. The phone was ringing off the hook.” He adds, “When I came up and visited the hospital here, I was very impressed with the brand new hospital and clinic. And the majority of specialists here all have the same medical records electronic system. It’s an important system that makes it easy to have continuity of care for patients.

“I thoroughly enjoyed everybody I met during my interview. It was an easy decision to continue my career here in Sturgis.”

Listen to the interview. KBHB ON DEMAND



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