APHA

Tending to Her Herd

Small-town Texas living built a big, beautiful life for rural physician Maurice “Doc” Wilkinson.

By Rachel Florman

Dawn breaks over Shiner, Texas, painting the sky in shades of purple, pink and orange as Maurice “Doc” Wilkinson, M.D., heads out to make her rounds. As she traverses the rural routes of the quintessential South Texas town toward her office at the Lavaca County Health Center in Halletsville, worn fence lines stitch together the families and farms comprising the tight-knit communities that are already alive and bustling with morning chores that encircle their endless commitment to their animals, land and livelihoods. The same steadfast commitment calls Doc to her rounds; she’s got her own herd, of sorts, to tend.

In the course of a day, Doc tends to patients in her small clinic before crisscrossing up to 80 miles through her hometown of Shiner and the surrounding area to serve 150 nursing-home patients in seven facilities. The nearest major hospital center is 45 miles away in Victoria, so Doc and her practice’s partners are the primary medical caretakers for a community of 7,500, tending to everyone from young children to star athletes, grandparents, social butterflies and shut-ins.

When dusk finally hangs in the sky, and Doc returns home in her trusty SUV, dust from backroads hitching a ride on her bumper, but she still has a few more rounds to make. Nickers greet Doc as she steps into her barn to scratch inquisitive noses, check stalls or run a brush over smooth chrome-and-copper coats. Here, amidst her favorite charges, Doc refills her heart with the love and care she generously dispenses every day.

When the rooster crows once more, Doc will get up and do it all again, just as she’s done for the last 42 years. When asked about retirement, the 68-year-old looks to her spurs: when they rust, she’ll hang them up and slow down.

“My spurs are brass, though,” she quipped, “so we don’t have to worry about that any time soon.”

Horses, healthcare, community and caring are the very fibers that make up Doc’s core, and she’s weaved them together into a life she’d never want to change.

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This is an excerpt from the Spring 2019 issue of Chrome—get Chrome magazine by becoming an APHA member at apha.com/join.

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