Dr. Yee Se Ong recalls seeing a patient in July and referring her to a neurologist in Tulsa — more specifically, he recalls speaking to that patient recently about the referral.
"I spoke to her two weeks ago and she showed me a letter from the neurologist saying her appointment is in February of next year," Ong said.
Ong serves as the president of CCOM Medical Group, and his organization hopes to alleviate those huge wait times by bringing in a neurologist of their own, he said.
That neurologist is Dr. Jonathan Turoff, who moved to Muskogee from Western Pennsylvania to join CCOM's staff. The move was motivated by the scarcity of available specialists in the area compared to his home state, Turoff said.
"Oklahoma is, I believe, number six in the country when it comes to a lack of neurologists, whereas Pennsylvania is number 43," Turoff said. "There's more demonstrated need here in this area compared to where I previously lived."
The need has been dire for some time, Ong said.
"We have not had any neurologists in Muskogee for three years, and even in Tulsa it's very hard to refer a patient for neurology," Ong said. "Some of them have three or four month waiting times. It's one of the biggest needs we have in Muskogee."
Neurology, by definition, deals with disorders of the nervous system. It has become a broader and more involved field of study in the last 20 years, Turoff said.
"Cerebral vascular disease and stroke, headache, neuroimmunology, epilepsy, neuromuscular disease, dementia, movement disorders," Turoff said. "All of those fall under neurology."
While some neurologists sub-specialize into those fields, Turoff's expertise remains broad, he said.
"I wouldn't consider myself a specialist, more of a general neurologist," Turoff said.
The interest in neurology began in medical school and after an "early exposure" to the discipline when his father was treated for an acoustic atheroma, Turoff said.
"It's a combination of family experience and professional interest," Turoff said.
Having a neurologist available is critical to addressing problems in the field in an effective way, Ong said.
"There's a wide variety that we're not doing now that we should be doing as a medical community," Ong said. "Having a neurologist is a big part of that. It's a specialty that we really need in this area."