It’s not often that a person can move more than a thousand miles from home and still feel at home in their new town. Kimberly Olving has found her home in Licking –– 1,021 miles from Lehighton, Pa., the town where she grew up and where her family lives today.
Lehighton is a town of about 6,000 people in east central Pennsylvania. Olving explains with a laugh that in Pennsylvania nobody knows where Lehighton is, but everyone recognizes the neighboring town of Jim Thorpe, Pa. — the town where the legendary football player is buried. Such is life in a small town.
Lehighton has a rich history as a silk and lace mill town known for the railroad and the river that ran through the town. Franz Kline, the noted 20th century abstract artist, is from Lehighton. Today, Lehighton is home to Gnaden Huetten Memorial Hospital, a 111-bed hospital, and some mom and pop businesses like Miller’s Country Store, where Olving spent her high school years working as a cashier.
The area K-12 school system is also located in Lehighton and while a student at Lehighton Area High School, Olving found two loves. Both have stayed with her since her days in Lehighton.
Olving’s first love was Mark, a schoolmate since fifth grade. Mark and Kim began dating in high school, which led to their marriage six years later.
The second love was science. After graduating with honors from high school, Olving attended Elmira College, a small liberal arts college in Elmira, N.Y.
“In 1855 Elmira College was the first college in the United States to grant diplomas to women that were equivalent to those granted to men,” Olving proudly pointed out.
Elmira College granted a diploma in chemistry and several prizes and awards to Olving during her four years of study. Olving was also the valedictorian of her college graduating class.
“I knew I wanted to do something in science or medicine,” Olving explained about her post-school aspirations.
Olving spent a summer in Germany on a chemistry research scholarship studying the chemical aspects of Alzheimer’s and certain pharmaceuticals.
“I couldn’t see myself being a research scientist for a career,” Olving explained. “I wanted to have more interaction with people.”
Olving considered her options for a career in medicine, opting to pursue training as a physician’s assistant.
“My family had a very good physician assistant that we used for our healthcare needs,” Olving said. “I could see myself doing the same type of work.”
A small town girl at heart, Olving believed that small towns and physician assistants were made for each other.
“The physician assistant program was founded to fill the gaps when a doctor wasn’t available,” Olving said. “That’s what attracted me.”
Olving began the physician’s assistant program at Salus University, near Philadelphia.
Although her school was based in a large metropolitan area, Olving sought out opportunities to train at the hospital and clinics in her hometown of Lehighton or clinics in the surrounding area.
“I got involved with the East Central Pennsylvania Area Health Education Center, and they helped me do my rotations in small towns and rural health clinics,” Olving said.
Olving trained to provide the full scope of medical care for patients at the beginning to the end of their lives. A professor at Salus taught Olving that physician assistants trained in family medicine must have a wide variety of training and experience for managing the diversity of patients that are seen every day.
“That’s what’s neat about family medicine,” Olving said. “You see a wide variety of patients and conditions, and it keeps you on your toes.”
So how does a young woman from rural Pennsylvania end up in rural Missouri? Remember Kim’s high school sweetheart, Mark?
Mark and Kim married in July 2011 and Mark, a lieutenant with the 55th Engineering Battalion in the US Army, was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood. A few months after graduating from physician assistant school and receiving her physician assistant board certification, Kim found herself living in Waynesville and looking for a job.
In January, Olving interviewed with Dr. John Paulson at the Texas County Memorial Hospital Family Clinic in Licking. Paulson, entering his second year of practice in Licking, wanted to add a full-time mid-level provider at the clinic. Olving joined the Licking clinic staff by the end of January and after a month of working closely with Paulson, she is now seeing patients on her own.
“I enjoy everything about working for TCMH,” Olving said “I like being a colleague to Dr. Paulson. The hospital is awesome. And I love the close knit, small town feeling here.”
Paulson and Olving practice a teamwork approach in seeing the patients that visit the clinic.
“I do all of the well woman care,” Olving said, adding that she also sees patients of all ages and handles overflow patients, too.
“I can definitely talk to Dr. Paulson when needed, and I’m still learning so much every day,” Olving said.
Olving works at the Licking clinic five days a week. She’s getting acquainted with her rural Missouri surroundings — everything from Sonic to people that recognize her by the car she drives.
The staff at the Licking clinic has introduced Olving to “Route 44” drinks from Sonic –– a chain that only recently began opening stores on the East coast and one that Olving had never tried until her first week at the TCMH Family Clinic.
Olving recounted how a clinic patient inquired about “the green car” parked at the clinic, wanting to know who drove it.
“The staff told him that I drove the car, and he said that every morning, he watched me drive by on my way to work,” she said, and added with a laugh, “I guess my patients are watching me.”
The Olvings share their home with two miniature Schnauzers, Canon and Moby. When she’s not working, Olving enjoys photography, and she’s learning how to quilt.
Olving is known for bringing baked goods to share with the staff at the clinic, and on weekends Olving enjoys shopping, traveling to sales and visiting flea markets.
“I love antiques,” Olving said. And like many things in Olving’s life, her love for antiques also began in Lehighton and continues on in Licking.
Appointments can be made with Olving at the TCMH Family Clinic at 573-674-3311.