Medical student has his roots in Nebraska soil

by Kalani Simpson, UNMC public relations | May 03, 2013

Image with caption: Wes Whitten, at right, with wife Kari and son Winston on Match Day.

Wes Whitten, at right, with wife Kari and son Winston on Match Day.

Over hours on a tractor, the stress and strife of med school seem to melt away.

Some have their bubble bath. He has his alfalfa patch.

Wes Whitten grew up farming and ranching near Overton, Neb. During his second year of undergrad he saw an opportunity. An older gentleman in town was selling some land. Wes qualified for a loan.

"I got in just before land values about tripled," he said.

And over four years of medical school at UNMC, he farmed.

Farming as a part-time job? He can make it work because it's a summer crop. He tends 125 pivot-irrigated acres near Overton. He plants, cuts, rakes, bales, stacks and delivers. Over the last four years he's lived the stressful life of a medical student, part of the College of Medicine's class of 2013.

But in those hours on that tractor, he's at peace.

The cross-country trip, driving those alfalfa bales down to Texas, to sell - what does he think about as those miles roll by?

"Everything," he said. "And nothing at all."

This is his release.

The farming helped him pay for med school. He enjoys the business side of it, too. "It's been a good investment," he said.

A lot of doctors back home are businessmen, too.

That's what he's going to do. He's going to be a farming doctor, and a doctor farmer. He's going to set up a side business, and his own practice. And he's going to get out, on the land.

He'll be out in the heat and the dust, the smell of freshly-mowed alfalfa in the air.

Have you ever inhaled deep, on a warm summer day? Nothing like it.

It smells like home.

At the College of Medicine's 2013 Match Day, he and wife Kari walked up to the podium to the country tune of having come from a "map dot." They carried son Winston, just 6 weeks old.

Then they ripped the envelope and read the news. Then Wes and Kari donned hats that denoted their destination. Wake Forest?

Why not? He knows where he'll settle, where he'll plant and grow. Why not see another part of the world for a few years? Why not have one last adventure first?

Residency for new doctors is exhaustion and adrenaline and days without sleep. But Wes isn't worried.

He has that tractor waiting for him when he gets back.

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