My favorite rural tradition
With a cold wind pushing sheets of rain and waves across the sand, I look up to see my family keenly looking down searching for the signs of razor clams beneath the surface. It’s 8:00 p.m. and overcast on Long Beach peninsula in Washington, and I finally get to enjoy one of my family’s favorite traditions, a night clam tide during a winter storm.

The evening usually starts with board games as we await the best time for digging, which is typically 2 hours prior to low tide, with tonight’s low tide being 8:45 p.m. Once the time arrives, we all bundle up in our hip-waders and rain gear so we can brave the elements in relative comfort. The final preparation is to grab a flashlight and a headlamp so we can see the dime sized holes in the sand that signal a razor clam.

It’s a 20 minute drive on the beach to our favorite spot on the 27 mile Long Beach, a huge spit of sand formed by sediment from the Columbia River carried north by the ocean currents. As we approach the destination we challenge each other for who is going to get the biggest clam, the fastest limit of 15, and biggest overall limit (which we weigh for sport on a digital scale to settle the score).

Once the truck stops, we boil out of the car and race into the surf as we all love the excuse to be out in the rain and waves doing something that many would find absurd. After we all get our limits (and I do mean everyone) we get into the truck dripping wet, cold, and laughing.

Rural medicine offers best of both worlds
This is just one of many traditions I can imagine rural born medical students could share that are totally dependent on a wilderness setting. During this holiday break it occurred to me that being removed from these activities, by virtue of going to school in the city, may be part of a unique challenge for rural students. If other rural students are anything like me, the urban environments where I have to attend classes are not my preferred location and can’t afford me the opportunities for recreation that I find most reenergizing. When I am able to get the chance to run away from the city and engage in some of the favorite country traditions of my family, it makes my enthusiasm for rural medicine all the more intense, dreaming of a future where I get the best of both worlds.

I hope all of those sleepy medical students, refreshed from their holiday break, get a chance to acknowledge why rural medicine inspires them, and seize the opportunity to indulge in it.

Warm wishes from the Pacific Northwest!