Even though Tom Rangitsch insists he wasn’t a great athlete, he was still able to play sports through high school. Attending public school in Kemmerer provided Tom the opportunity to pursue any subject or activity that interested him. It wasn’t until he attended medical school out of state that he realized how uniquely exceptional his Wyoming public education really was.
“I always knew that I was lucky that I got to play basketball and swim all through high school, even though I was uncoordinated and not very good at it,” he laughed. “But I didn’t realize just how many opportunities we had in Wyoming,” he said. It was also in medical school when he learned that the quality of his education was just as good, if not better, than any of his classmates’ from across the nation.
What it meant: Growing up, Tom could pursue any interest or activity, because his schools had the staff and support to make it possible. He didn’t know most students aren’t afforded that.
Growing up, Tom always assumed he would leave Wyoming. It seemed small and boring to him as a teenager, but as he went through undergraduate school in Laramie, he grew to love the peace and recreation and knew this is where he wanted to raise his family. Now as an ER physician in Lander for more than 15 years, Tom wishes other health care professionals would discover the same love for their home state he did. He estimates that less than half of his hospital’s physicians are from Wyoming, and patients from rural areas tend to be more comfortable with providers who understand where they’re from. Moreover, nursing shortages are commonplace, so the hospital is forced to staff traveling nurses on short, temporary rotations.
“One of the biggest challenges we face is losing brain power in our state. We need to keep our health care system supported,” he said. As Tom learned in medical school, our educators and schools are already among the best. Continuing to prioritize Wyoming’s public education will be one of the state’s most competitive ways to keep our local brains here. It’ll give today’s students the tools they need to care for tomorrow’s hospitals.