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An Interesting Neighbor

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Posted: Thursday, September 20, 2012 9:00 am

His Christian name notwithstanding, Dr. Sean Orlino is about as far from being Irish as his native Manila is culturally distant from Purcell.

In other words, not even close - on either count.

Orlino, a family medicine practitioner, is Purcell’s newest physician and so far he loves what he perceives as the small-town friendliness of this largely rural area.

In fact, it was just such a place as Purcell that attracted him to rural medicine in the first place.

“There are only a few places where a family physician can do both clinic and hospital work,” he said. “I’ve always had an attraction to rural medicine.”

Orlino graduated from medical school at St. Thomas University in the Philippines.

After medical school, he continued his training with a family medicine residency at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Oklahoma City.

“I looked for a residency program that was faith-based and had a holistic approach to patient care,” he said.

In holistic medicine, he explained, a doctor treats the patient as a whole person instead of focusing just on a specific disease or ailment.

“You cannot exclude how important a patient’s beliefs or faith is and I believe you gain a lot if you address that part of their life,” he said.

For Orlino, a Catholic, selecting a Catholic hospital for his residency provided him with ample opportunity to put his own beliefs and faith into action.

It was while working at St. Anthony that he got his first glimpse of Purcell. He was sent here for a month-long rotation that concentrated on rural medicine.

Now he’s back, this time with a practice of his own.

“I hope Purcell will accept me,” he said.

The residency built on an earlier interest in primary care medicine that, for Orlino, began while he was a medical student in the Philippines.

“I was fascinated with applied science and working with people,” he said. “It’s rewarding to help people and see the results of interaction of patient and doctor.

“I enjoy caring for both kids and adults up to geriatrics.”

For many years, specialization ruled the medical field. Increasingly, however, people see a need for more family medicine doctors.

Orlino’s life in Oklahoma has differed greatly from his life in the Philippines. He grew up in Manila, a modern metropolis more on a par with San Francisco or New York City than anywhere in the Sooner state.

And keep in mind that the Philippines is a tropical place. Orlino joked that the islands have two kinds of weather - rain or sun - and just two seasons, hot and hotter.

He might not have been fully prepared for back-to-back winters that brought blizzards, ice and near record snows to his new home.

“It was a surprise,” he admitted. “My first Christmas we had snow. That didn’t pop up on Google.”

But, he said, his fellow residents were ever helpful, offering him rides in the worst of the winter onslaught.

Apparently no one told him that Oklahomans aren’t known for their ice and snow driving skills.

For Orlino, though, it was all indicative of Oklahomans’ innate willingness to help others.

Away from the hospital and the office, Orlino, 33 and single, enjoys watching movies and listening to music, particularly alternative rock and jazz.

He’s going to try golf - “my Dad is a golfer” - and he’s looking forward to a real family Christmas in Oklahoma this year with his parents and younger brother who live in Redding, Calif.

Two older brothers have made their homes in the Philippines.

Orlino’s parents are both retired physicians. His mother was an obstetrician and his father a surgeon.

“They never pushed me toward their specialties,” he said, “but encouraged me to find my own niche in the medical field.

“Coming from two specialties, it’s a journey to find out I enjoy family medicine and primary care.”

It’s not lost on Orlino that he’s beginning his medical career in the States at a time that has many Americans wondering about the future of medicine in this country as health care reforms are implemented.

“I’m still studying it, studying American politics and health care,” Orlino said. “Change can be exciting and challenging.”

Paying for health care is largely left to the individual in the Philippines, he said.

The emphasis on preventive care in this country he sees as “one of the strengths of American health care.”

It’s like comparing climates - one isn’t better or worse than the other. They are simply different.

Orlino’s transition from Filipino to Oklahoman is ongoing.

“I was worried I would miss the hustle and bustle (of Manila),” he said, “but I’m starting to see that I enjoy the quiet. I like nature a lot. I’m doing the baby steps right now, living in Purcell.”

And, in that sense, distance isn’t quite the divide it once seemed.

Even if he still isn’t Irish.

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