Living on her parents’ farm in Greenfield, Ohio, taught Kristen Free White the value of hard work.
She and her sisters and brother baled hay and picked corn. They watched their father work long hours without complaint. They also took care of the animals they raised as part of their 4-H projects to show in the county fair.
“That was what you did,” said White, a fourth-year medical student at the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine. “It was awesome to watch my dad work on the farm with so much passion. My parents worked hard, but they also showed us how to give back to the community.”
At the end of May, White will graduate with her M.D. degree from the Boonshoft School of Medicine. She will begin a three-year residency in pediatrics this summer through the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics at Dayton Children’s Hospital. She is looking forward to her residency as she gets closer to making her dream of becoming a rural pediatrician a reality.
Rural medicine is a calling, and White is prepared and willing to serve a rural community in that capacity. “My parents are farmers,” said White, who will graduate from medical school on May 26. “There are social situations in rural medicine that I can identify with. I can be a better physician because I understand those issues.”
White received a $30,000 Primary Care Medical Student Choose Ohio First Scholarship for the 2016–2017 academic year. She was one of four Boonshoft School of Medicine students who received the scholarship this academic year. Scholarship recipients must be Ohio residents. They must show a commitment to community service. They also must commit to a residency in family medicine, primary care internal medicine, primary care pediatrics or geriatrics. After completing the residency, each recipient must agree to practice full time in Ohio for at least three years in primary care (family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics or geriatrics). As primary care physicians, they must serve Medicaid patients.
After her residency, White plans to return to Greenfield, a small town near Chillicothe in Ross County in Southern Ohio. “My hometown has that small-town sense of community where you are constantly encouraged and driven to make and do great things,” White said. “That’s influenced my decision to go back and be a part of the community.”
During medical school, White married her husband, Corey White, whom she met at the Ross County Fair. The two started dating while they were in college. He played baseball at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in education. He now teaches sixth-grade math in the Chillicothe City School District. The couple lives in Jamestown, Ohio, which is the midpoint between Chillicothe and Dayton, with their 20-month-old daughter, Hazel.
“I’m forever grateful for having Hazel during medical school,” said White, who balances motherhood and medical school by taking one day at a time. “You just wake up every morning, and you do it. I love coming home to Hazel’s smiling face.”
The Whites remain involved in 4-H and the Ross County Fair as 4-H advisers. The non-formal educational youth development program is offered to kids ages 5 to 19. Participants learn about animals, computers, public speaking, cooking, art, gardening and natural sciences.
“As 4-H advisers, we are helping the kids in Ross County with their 4-H projects,” she said. “My husband is raising two litters of 4-H pigs on a friend’s farm.”
Eventually, they plan to return to Southern Ohio to be close to family and friends. “So many of our friendships developed through 4-H and the county fair,” said White, who showed pigs and did sewing, cooking, child care and photography projects as a child. “A lot of our friends went to different high schools, but 4-H and the county fair brought us together.”
White was the 2007 Ross County Fair Queen and the 2009 Ohio Fairs’ Queen. She traveled to 65 county fairs as the fair queen. She and her mother traveled to the various county fairs during the 2009 summer.
“We traveled 13,000 miles that summer,” she said. “It was so much fun being with my mom and mentoring so many kids in 4-H at the various county fairs.”
She attended Ohio State University and graduated in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition.
During her undergraduate experience at Ohio State, she went on a medical mission trip to Peru, where she worked in HIV orphanages.
“I realized that working with children is what I am meant to do,” she said. “That experience made me want to become a physician.”
Ultimately, she would like to serve in a rural community as a pediatrician who collaborates with educators about childhood nutrition. In addition, she wants to work closely with school administrators on behalf of pediatric patients who have ADHD or diabetes.
“I would like to work in the Southern Ohio area and support the youth, just as others have done for me and my husband,” White said. “I plan to work closely with the school systems as a pediatrician to improve the nutrition offered to students and to work with educators to implement the best plans that benefit the daily learning of the individual kids.”