Chip Lange says his parents are “only slightly disappointed” he didn’t return home to Cuba, Mo., to practice medicine and work on the family farm. However, Lange considers his new home in Houston to be the perfect location for practicing medicine, and it’s just the right distance from home, too.

“Areas like Texas County need medical help the most,” Lange said. “I grew up in a small town, and I understand the importance of treating people I know.”

Raised in Cuba, Lange always had an interest in pursuing a career in a healthcare field. While working toward an undergraduate degree in biomedical psychology at Westminster College in Fulton, Lange learned about the role a physician assistant (PA) plays in the healthcare field.

“Physician assistants have a broad base of knowledge that allows us to work in a wide range of healthcare fields, and we are trained to collaborate with doctors, nurses and other members of the healthcare team,” Lange said.

Lange liked the “teamwork component” as well as the flexibility and lifestyle options a PA has.

After completing his undergraduate degree, Lange began the PA program and the University of Toledo in Ohio. Lange’s final rotation in the program was at Texas County Memorial Hospital working under Dr. Schaun Flaim at the TCMH Medical Complex.

“The University of Toledo program is two years — a year in the classroom and in a medical setting and the final year doing rotations in various healthcare settings,” Lange said.

Although Lange’s PA training rotations covered all aspects of healthcare, he tried to focus on rural settings for his primary care training. After growing up in rural America, Lange was confident he wanted to take his healthcare knowledge back to a small town.

“I wanted to get lots of exposure to all types of healthcare issues and learn as much as possible,” Lange said.

Lange’s connection with TCMH came through his fiancée, Amber Lockhart, a newly hired English teacher at Houston High School. Lockhart grew up in Leasburg and took the full-time job in Houston last fall.

Lange opted to do his final PA rotation in a location that would be near Lockhart.

“While at TCMH, I’ve worked primarily under Dr. Flaim, but I’ve also been able to work with Dr. (Jeff) Kerr and other members of the TCMH team,” Lange said. “I’ve been exposed to many different things, and the final rotation put the finishing touches on my training.”

Upon relocating to Houston, Lange joined the volunteer fire departments for Houston — city and rural. He trained as an emergency medical technician in college and after becoming an EMT, he joined the Central Callaway County Fire Department so he could gain experience providing hands on patient care.

“Fire departments can always use extra help, and it’s a great opportunity for me to use what I know,” Lange said.

At TCMH, Lange found the healthcare providers he was working with to be very open and helpful due to prior experience with the PA field. Lange quickly realized that he wanted to work at TCMH full-time after completing his PA training.

“This is a great opportunity for me,” Lange said. “I have been able to share my ideas about how I might be utilized as a PA at TCMH, and everyone has been open to them.”

Lange hopes to work in the clinic as well as the TCMH emergency department. He is even working with the TCMH Healthcare Foundation in pursuing a grant that would allow him to make home visits to patients that have conditions that make them a high risk for readmission following a hospitalization or that are unable to be seen in the clinic due to limitations.

“I like the idea of working in a place where I will not be stuck in one location,” Lange said. “I don’t mind being asked to float from place to place where I’m needed most at the time.”

Lange passed his board certification exam in January and is waiting on his licensure to come through before he can see patients on his own. His first assignment as a PA will be to fill in for Dr. Gretchen Price, internal medicine physician at the TCMH Medical Complex in Houston, while she’s on maternity leave this spring.

“I’ve been able to spend time with Dr. Price, meeting her patients, so I hope to help alleviate some of the load for her while she’s out,” Lange said.

Lange is also planning to be available to the TCMH emergency department to call on him to help with primary care needs in the department during peak times.

Regardless of where he’s working, Lange is passionate about the work a physician assistant can do in rural America.

“There’s less cost to an employer in hiring a PA,” Lange said. “We can try new things, and we’re trained to work on the front lines of healthcare in collaboration with the physician and other members of the healthcare team.”

In his free time, Lange enjoys sport shooting as well as hunting and fishing. He is also a Civil War re-enactor and does mixed martial art training. Lange and Lockhart were married Feb. 15, and they are working toward purchasing a home in Houston. Both have a strong commitment to community and want to become more involved in Texas County and the new community they call home.

“I want to be here,” Lange said. “It’s the perfect place for me.”

Physician assistants have a broad base of knowledge that allows us to work in a wide range of healthcare fields, and we are trained to collaborate with doctors, nurses and other members of the healthcare team.”

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