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Reflecting on a month of work and play in Big Sky Country

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By Ty Tantisook EBS Contributor

After 26 hours of driving, I pulled into the town center of Big Sky on a rainy July afternoon. The two-day haul from Nashville, Tennessee, took me across eight states, and I was eager to begin my month at the Medical Clinic of Big Sky and to experience Big Sky Country in all its glory. 

Fast-forward to the end of July. My month in Montana has flown by with all that I’ve experienced and learned. I’d heard lots of great things about the winter in Big Sky, but I didn’t know what to expect for the summer. This town is like no place on earth with world-class fishing, golf, hiking and mountain biking right in your backyard. Being able to fish the Gallatin or hike Lava Lake after a full workday is pretty amazing. 

As an added bonus, elite national parks like Grand Teton, Yellowstone and Glacier are just a short drive away. Struggling to decide which unforgettable activity to do after work and on weekends is a great problem to have. 

My experiences at the Medical Clinic of Big Sky have been equally outstanding. It’s been a pleasure providing urgent and primary care to the awesome people of this town while learning from Dr. Jeff Daniels, Cary Wilson, and the clinic’s other talented staff. This month featured students from South Africa, Canada, Illinois and Tennessee. 

Sharing recommendations about the outdoors while treating locals and visitors has been a daily treat. Practicing medicine in this environment with a unique and friendly patient population has been invaluable training for all of the clinic students. 

With an active population comes many unique injuries related to mountain biking, hiking and fishing, like removing the occasional fishhook. We have helped dozens battle the infamous Montana summer allergy season. It has been a delight helping tourists from lower elevations overcome altitude sickness so they can enjoy their time here with their friends and families. 

Perhaps the most memorable patient came in to the clinic after severely burning his hands with 375-degree liquid rubber. Millimeter by millimeter, we peeled off the tar-like substance from his skin that had solidified to encompass his left hand. He somehow kept a great attitude and smiled throughout the meticulous and painful process. 

I’ve even had the pleasure of seeing a newly healed patient at the top of Beehive Basin a few days after treating him. Fortunately, we were able to help get him back on his feet so he could enjoy his vacation with his family. Many people work hard all year to be able to have a few days or a week here, and the clinic’s role in helping these folks enjoy their vacation is commendable.

The people of Big Sky have been extremely kind and welcoming, offering advice on any topic from the best restaurants in town to the best dry flies to pull in trophy browns and rainbows. Coming from Memphis, I didn’t think I’d find some of the best barbeque I’ve ever had right on the banks of the Gallatin River. 

There’s something unique about a small town where you can make small talk with one of the most famous athletes in the world over a Beehive Basin Brewery pale ale. The views in and around Big Sky make it a lot easier to unplug for a while and forget about spotty cell phone coverage. After a few weeks in this dreamland, it’s easy to see why people from all walks of life travel here from all over the world—with the lucky ones finding a way to stay. 

Ty Tantisook is a fourth-year medical student from Nashville, Tennessee, who recently completed a unique training program implemented by Jeff Daniels of the Medical Clinic of Big Sky. 

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