More than 10 years ago, Russell Huq, M.D., was just a few miles from Licking when he did basic training at Fort Leonard Wood.
“I think I went on a 20-mile march through Texas County,” Huq quipped with a smile. Although he began army service as a way to become a physician, Huq never imagined that he would return to the Ozarks to actually serve as a physician one day.
Huq’s interest in medicine stems back to his childhood in India, where he noticed the disparities in healthcare between urban and rural dwellers.
“There is awesome healthcare available in India and other third world countries, but it’s localized to the big cities,” he said. “In the rural areas, there is virtually no healthcare available.”
At the age of 15, Huq moved with his family to Dallas, Texas, where his father had taken a job. After finishing high school, Huq joined the Army.
“It seemed like the fastest way to assimilate to a new culture,” Huq explained. “I knew the Army could help me get my education and make it affordable.”
After time at Fort Leonard Wood, Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, and Fort Sill in Lawton, Okla., Huq had received an excellent dose of American culture. But was still very far away from obtaining the education he needed to become a physician.
“I realized that the Army could help me get an education, but they had many other things that took precedence,” Huq said. “School is not the primary focus, so after I finished my term, I went to college.”
Huq began undergraduate studies at Southern Methodist University in 1995 and within three years, he had a degree in chemistry.
After college, he attended medical school and received a doctor of medicine at American University of the Caribbean in St. Maarten. Following medical school, Huq was invited by a physician to Yale University to work as a research scientist. Huq assisted with clinical trials for the emergency department at Yale New Haven Health.
After Yale, Huq entered Southern New Mexico Family Practice residency in Las Cruces, N.M.
“I wanted rural healthcare training to be a large part of my residency program,” Huq explained. He still wanted to be a physician that could meet a variety of patient needs in an area where healthcare was lacking.
The first year of Huq’s training in New Mexico was primarily spent in large hospitals in Albuquerque and Las Cruces – not the specialized training Huq envisioned.
“I had the opportunity to transfer to the family medicine residency with Methodist Health System in Dallas,” Huq explained, “the top-rated family practice program in Dallas.” Huq jumped at the opportunity to go to the top-notch system and be closer to his family in Texas.
“My family practice training was very strong,” Huq said. “It was a truly awesome experience.”
Huq’s training prepared him to provide the full spectrum of care for his patients and to see patients of all ages – from new babies to their great-grandparents.
“As a family practice physician there are several diseases you must master,” Huq explained, as hypertension, diabetes, asthma and congestive heart failure as examples. “Family practice physicians are not specialists, but we are specialists in many common healthcare conditions. I have tried to be a master of the diseases that affect a majority of my patients, and I can manage these diseases as part of the care I provide.”
Huq wants to keep his patients under his care, referring them to other providers only for procedures that he cannot provide.
In February, when Dr. Huq signed a four-year contract with Texas County Memorial Hospital, he planned to work at the TCMH Medical Complex in Houston.
“I liked the way the clinic was affiliated with the hospital, but I was able to practice like I was in private practice,” Huq explained. “I looked forward to the opportunity to see patients without having to build up my own, new practice.”
TCMH also provided a place for Huq to practice the full-range of family medicine in an area that needed healthcare providers.
In July, TCMH approached Huq about working in the TCMH Family Clinic in Licking when a full-time physician was needed. Huq was willing to take the position.
“I am even more excited about this opportunity,” Huq said. “There are many patients here that need to be seen, and I’m looking forward to seeing them and getting to know them.”
Huq’s commitment to healthcare doesn’t end with his practice in Licking, though. He’s currently working on a medical reference guide for residents.
“With my book, I’ve tried to identify the bulk of patient complaints that family practice physicians encounter, “Huq explained, holding a medium-sized spiral bound book that could be slipped into a large medical coat pocket.
Medical diseases have been alphabetized in the book and more or less information is available depending upon the condition. There are large chapters on common diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes.
“This is a book that will be very useful to a physician just beginning a family practice residency,” Huq said. The book will be used by the residents at Huq’s program in Dallas and may be utilized in other programs, too.
Huq has not forgotten the healthcare disparities he’s seen in rural parts of the third world. He’s planning to help build clinics and bring healthcare to rural areas in third world countries with an organization he’s started called, “Save a Nation.”
In its beginning stages, Save a Nation has chapters on a couple of college campuses in Texas. Huq’s vision includes finding sponsors to help build clinics and to recruit and retain healthcare providers for the clinics.
“The clinics will offer care on a sliding scale; free for those who cannot pay,” Huq explained. “Eventually the clinics can be self-sufficient, but help is needed in establishing them.”
Huq calls the organization a “work in progress,” but he has some funds raised as well as some commitments to provide used medical equipment.
Although Huq has spent the past few years focusing on his education and healthcare for his patients, he does hope to take up some hobbies after he gets settled into his new practice and life in Texas County.
“I enjoy cars, and I would like to learn golf,” Huq said. He joked that so far the only golf he plays is Internet golf. “It seems like fun, though.”
Huq has relocated to the area with his wife, Nehar, and their seven-month old son, Reyhan.
The TCMH Family Clinic in Licking is taking appointments for new and established patients, and Huq has medical staff privileges at the hospital in Houston.