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Ely Walker and Kelsey Hurley Walker

"I Always Knew I Wanted to End up in a Small Town"


DENVER (March 17, 2011) - Kelsey Hurley Walker and Ely Walker matched as couple for their rural family medicine residencies, but for a while it looked like Ely Walker was going to be the last to know where they were going.

She teased him beforehand that her parents, his parents, their dog and her horse would probably find out before he did since he’d be 2,000 miles away in Guatemala.

 “There’s a definite possibility that I’ll tell you when I get there the next week,” she said. “But I’ll probably email you.”

A last minute change of plans means the couple will now travel together next week to Guatemala for Spanish lessons before they start their rural family medicine residencies in Fort Worth at John Peter Smith Hospital.

Hurley Walker, 26, grew up on the San Luis Valley so her Spanish is farther along than that of her husband, who is from a farm near Walsh on the Kansas border.

 “I wanted to get started early because she’s so far ahead of me,” he says. “I am a total country bumpkin. I don’t think the language centers in my brain are very developed.”

Both feel strongly that they want to return to rural Colorado to practice after their training - Hurley Walker’s father was a family medicine physician while she was growing up - and speaking Spanish would be an important skill.

“I saw the impact he had on the community, and I always knew I wanted to end up in a small town. I get excited about it every time I think about it. I like relationships, and I like the fact that family medicine offers the opportunity to develop relationships.

Walker, 27, said he never had a doubt about rural medicine.

“I like getting to know the community and their stories. I think that you understand someone better medically when you know them personally. “

“And you get to watch kids grow,” his wife adds.

“And there’s the variety,’ Walker says. “You get to do all kinds of medicine. You never know who is going to walk in your door. “

The couple met at Colorado State University where she majored in equine science and he studied microbiology. They started dating in medical school. He was a year ahead of her, so he took a year off between his third and fourth years to earn a master’s degree in public health, figuring that way they could go into residency together. He is one of the first two CU students to graduate with an MD and a master's in public health.

But in the end a third party helped determine their Match Day picks.

“We listed cities according to how horse friendly they were,” he says, laughing.