Saving lives and living his own

Why transplant pharmacist Conner Patton moved back to Oklahoma.
Conner Patton, a Pharmacist in Oklahoma, smiles for a photo.

Conner Patton is a pharmacist, foodie, dog dad, and outdoors enthusiast who calls Warr Acres, Oklahoma home. After training in Chicago, Conner returned to Oklahoma to treat some of the region’s most at-risk heart and lung transplant patients. He joined us to chat about why moving back to Oklahoma was a game-changer for his career and life. 

Give me a snapshot of your life in Oklahoma. What does your life look like here?

Sure. I live in northwest Oklahoma City, and I spend a lot of my time exploring the food scene and hanging out at local parks with my dog, Wells. My day job takes me to INTEGRIS Health Baptist Medical Center where I work as the Advanced Cardiac Care solid organ transplant pharmacist. I get to work with my team of cardiothoracic specialists each day to help provide comprehensive care to our patients. 

You’re the only board-certified transplant pharmacist in the state of Oklahoma. You could go anywhere you wanted. Why stay in Oklahoma? 

While I was studying at Southwestern Oklahoma State University, president Randy Beutler often challenged students to go wherever necessary to learn their trade, but to return to Oklahoma and give back to the state they were privileged to be raised in. After my first year of residency, I relocated to Chicago for postgraduate training at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, but I missed the easy access to the outdoors, wide-open spaces, and lifelong friends that Oklahoma had to offer. So, I made the decision to move home.

It’s very rewarding to get to better the lives of fellow Oklahomans each day. At INTEGRIS, we’re home to the only comprehensive transplant department in the state. We perform roughly 250 lifesaving transplants each year and provide expert medical care to so many more. I like to think I am fulfilling [President Beutler’s] challenge by coming home and providing professional clinical pharmacy services to my patients. 

You’re born and raised in Oklahoma. What are some of your favorite parts of living here? 

By far my favorite thing about living in Oklahoma is being within driving distance of my family. We often get together on the weekends and go to local markets or restaurants. Because of the central location, it’s also easy for us to road trip to Arkansas and Texas or go skiing in Colorado, which we do every year. 

Living in Oklahoma City is also pretty affordable compared to cities of similar size. As a single person, it can be challenging to purchase property, but living in Oklahoma has allowed me to become a homeowner at a fairly young age. Career wise, there is always opportunity for growth. Clinical pharmacy has been alive for decades in Oklahoma, but we’re currently seeing tremendous growth throughout the Oklahoma City metro. 

What does a typical day look like for you? 

I spend the first hours of my day with my gym friends at F45 Training Northwest, then walk my dog around our neighborhood before heading into work, which is just down the street from my house. 

Most of my day, I assist in medication management of patients’ immunosuppression, infections, rejection episodes, and other complications, and I also educate new transplant recipients who are transitioning out of the hospital. Occasionally I’ll also have SWOSU College of Pharmacy students or INTEGRIS pharmacy residents shadow me, and on special days, I get to help procure organs for our transplant patients. 

Connor boarding a plane, assisting in the procurement of an organ transplant.

After work I love to meet up with friends at Bar K to let our pups get their energy out, try one of the new restaurants constantly popping up, or grill out on my patio before settling in for the night. 

What kinds of things do you do in your free time?

On the rare occasion I haven’t scheduled a Saturday full of activities, I like to check out farmers markets, resale markets, thrift shops, and some of the many state parks and national preservation areas across the state. During cooler months, I try to get outside and camp. I love visiting Beavers Bend State Park in the fall months to camp and float the Mountain Fork River. Most recently, I went up to Robbers Cave State Park and had a five-star experience. Wells [Conner’s dog] loved it too.

Connor enjoying a lake day with his dog.

Okay, it’s Saturday. You have nothing planned. How are you spending it? 

If I had a completely free day, I’d start at Tawbi Coffee, then head to Bluff Creek Park to meet up with some friends and walk my dog around the trails. After, Wells and I would head up to the Edmond Farmers Market and pick up some pastries from Twisted Tree Baking Company. My family lives in Tecumseh, which is just about 45 minutes from Oklahoma City, so I often drive down to spend the afternoon catching up and living uncle life. I’d end the night with a drink at the Jones Assembly in downtown OKC.

You clearly love to explore the state. What are some hidden Oklahoma gems people need to check out? 

I’m a foodie, so first and foremost you have to try some of the great restaurants around the state. For a quintessential Oklahoma experience, get a chicken fried steak at Kendall’s in Noble and a pie from Arbuckle Fried Pies down in Davis. I also love Sheesh Mahal in Oklahoma City and Ma Beasley’s Daylight Donuts in my hometown of Tecumseh. 

In terms of places, I recommend Liberty Theatre in Carnegie. It’s the oldest movie theater still in operation in Oklahoma. Medicine Park or Red Rock Canyon Adventure Park are some of my favorite day trips, and if you’re around in the summer, the Firelake FireFlight Balloon Festival in Shawnee is a can’t miss. 

Last question. What do you think people get wrong about life in Oklahoma? 

I think a lot of people incorrectly assume that Oklahoma lacks excitement. To that I say, check us out for yourself. Oklahoma is teeming with things to do, from the culturally diverse food scene, outdoor recreation, and concert venues to resort spas, historical sites, and more. 

Oklahoma is so much more than a “flyover state.” We’re growing in so many ways, and there’s still plenty of space for you to call a piece yours. 

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