Alumni Spotlight – Dr. Oneka Marriott D.O.

March 28, 2016

Early this week we posted about the MD vs the DO degree. Today, our featured alum is Dr.  Oneka Marriott D.O.  Here to tell us first hand what life as a D.O. is like. Enjoy!


What year did you graduate from Oakwood?



What was your major?



What were your career aspirations during your time at Oakwood?

My focus was always on studying to become a doctor – specifically a pediatrician. I was a biology major at Howard University for my first year of college and then transferred to OC my second year maintaining the same degree focus.


What was your academic path after graduation from Oakwood?

I did not enter medical school directly after graduating from Oakwood (although I did apply). Back then (as it is even more so now) the competition to enter medical school is fierce. And although Oakwood’s Biology/pre-med program prepares you very well for medical school my life took a different path. Upon the advice of my counselor Dr. Schmidt, I applied to the Master of Public Health program at The Ohio State University and was accepted for the Fall of 2003. This was the best decision I could have made. In this program I discovered my love of population health and laid the foundation for my future work in public health and medicine. My love for pediatric medicine was still brewing however, and I decided to reapply to medical school. A year into my MPH I completed an intensive 6 week summer program at Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Athens, Ohio. I have never worked so hard in my life and it paid off! At the end of the program eligible candidates are offered interviews for the medical school. I interviewed and was granted direct admission into the medical school for the following academic year. That Fall, I completed my MPH and graduated from The Ohio State University. I worked for 6 months until the start of medical school the next summer and then began my journey through the medical training.

I graduated from Ohio University (Heritage) College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2009 with a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree. I completed my pediatric residency in Palm Beach County Florida at Palms West Hospital in 2012.


What do you currently do (professionally)?

Currently, I am a board-certified practicing pediatrician and full-time faculty member at Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine (NSU-COM). I serve as Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Public Health as well as the Director of Medical Education for the Florida Department of Health-Palm Beach County Preventive Medicine and Public Health Program. I teach medical students in the pediatrics course as well as serve as a clinical instructor in our pediatric clinic. I also instruct 3 courses in the Master of Public Health Program including: Children’s Health, Public Health Issues in Child Abuse, and Vaccines. In 2014, through the sponsorship of NSU-COM, I completed a year-long national professional training fellowship in Health Policy.


I notice that you went to an osteopathic medical school? Can you give a brief description of how osteopathic medicine differs from allopathic medical schools?

Students attending osteopathic medical schools complete training in basic sciences as well as clinic medical education (as they do in allopathic medical schools). The Osteopathic philosophy is interwoven in the curriculum from day one where students are taught how the body functions as one unit and that the body is capable of self-healing. They are taught in a manner that emphasizes a holistic approach to patient care and management – taking into account, structural, biological, mental and social determinants of one’s health. Students are also instructed in Osteopathic Manipulative Therapy – which is a hands-on study and practice in the structure and function of the human body.  Upon graduating from medical school and subsequently residency, osteopathic students, like allopathic (MD) students can be fully licensed and credentialed to practice medicine and surgery in the United States.


Our students are not as familiar with osteopathic medical schools as they are with allopathic medical schools, how did the option to train as an osteopath come about for you?

Again, my advisor, Dr. Schmidt from OC was instrumental in my decision to pursue osteopathic medicine. Before her, I had never heard of it. During my MPH studies I researched it and found that the philosophies fit well with mine which were treating the whole person and creating a sense of community within your practice of medicine.


One common misconception is that graduates from osteopathic medical schools have a harder time getting residency positions, can you comment on that, as a practitioner who has completed residency?

The landscape of Graduate Medical Education in America is evolving as we speak. The once separate osteopathic and allopathic graduate medical education system is now unifying. Starting July 1, 2015, osteopathic residency programs will be able to apply for ACGME recognition; and therefore graduates of osteopathic and allopathic medical schools in the US will be eligible to apply to any of the residency positions as the transition unfolds. There are still many unknowns relative to this new unified system, but it does open up additional opportunities for graduates of all the US schools. As was previously the case, however, competition for residencies continues to be a challenge for all graduates. There are still some specialties such orthopedics, ophthalmology, and dermatology to name a few that are highly competitive and will likely remain so regardless of the changes in GME. Therefore, students are advised to work hard, be present and make themselves as valuable a candidate as possible. This goes across the board.


How do you incorporate your osteopathic principles and your OMT training into your daily work?

For me the principles of osteopathic medicine should be a part of any practicing physician. The principles guide a practitioner to be compassionate, think comprehensively (holistically) about the patient and his/her ailments, treat the body as a unit – meaning if there is a problem in one area it may be stemming from another area, incorporate the patient into his/her treatment plan, etc. These are principles that are ingrained in my practice of medicine on a daily basis. The beauty of OMT training is that it is an added tool in your medical toolbox. With our hands we are able to fix a headache in the office, relieve pain in a joint or back, and improve the oral-motor function in a baby to better facilitate feeding for instance. We use these techniques in conjunction with traditional medical management where appropriate.


What do you love most or find most rewarding about your job?

What I love most about being a pediatrician specifically is the ability to make a difference in a child’s life and potentially alter their course in life to maximize their greatest potential. The children we treat today could become the leaders of tomorrow. Who knows – one of them may become my doctor when I’m old! I’m contributing to the circle of life and the health of a nation and it’s a beautiful thing!


Thank you for the opportunity to share my journey!

Oneka Marriott, DO, MPH



Did you know there are two types of medical schools?

March 23, 2016

Not many students are aware of the two different types of medical degrees that exist.  Traditionally, people are most familiar with the M.D degree.  Graduates with an M.D degree attend allopathic medical schools.  There is also a second less known medical degree, the doctor of osteopathic medicine or D.O. which is the degree offered by osteopathic medical schools.

So what is a D.O?  DO is  doctor of osteopathic medicine, not to be confused with MD – the degree conferred on those who graduate from an allopathic medical school. Both are doctors who can enter residency programs and practice medicine.  Graduates from D.O schools can practice medicine just like those who graduate from M.D schools and go into whatever speciality they like.  The major difference in the training is that DO schools incorporate a holistic approach to healing and incorporate Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT) into their model / method for diagnosing and treating disease.

There are often misconceptions about osteopathic medicine.  It’s easier, its quack medicine, graduates can’t find residency positions, its a back up plan for people who can’t get into allopathic medical schools. These are all things I’ve heard about D.O schools and the field of osteopathic medicine.  In my experience I’ve found that my D.O colleagues were definitely on par if not better than my D.O colleagues.  We did residency together and now are  One of the premier pediatricians in the city of Huntsville, who I respect and look up to is a D.O.  Do I personally think having a D.O. degree places one at a disadvantage?  Absolutely not.

Check out the osteopathic school matriculant data to see the typical applicant profile, broken down by gender, race, MCAT score, GPA, etc.

To learn more about the field of osteopathic medicine and if it’s right for you, visit

To read more about the differences between MD vs DO, check out this blog.

Great, big, wide healthcare world – Physician Assistant

March 19, 2016

There is more to healthcare than just medicine and dentistry. Don’t get me wrong, medicine and dentistry are two lovely professions, however, that path isn’t the path for everyone.  Those with the desire to “help people” in a healthcare setting can do so as a physician assistant, optometrist, pharmacist, chiropractor.   Check out the interview below from Oakwood’s own Shonet Brown – PA, who works as a physician assistant.   To learn more about the road to becoming a PA, check out this website.


HO:What was your career goal when you started at Oakwood?

SB: My plan was to be a medical technologist (lab rat) to work my way through medical school and eventually become a pediatrician.


HO: What was your major?

SB: Pre-Physician Assistant (Associate of Science), Pre-Physical Therapy (Associate of Science), Biology (Bachelor of Science)


HO:How did you decide to become a physician assistant?

SB: First day of freshman registration I was waiting in line to see my advisor and saw a pamphlet about the Physician Assistant career. It gave me the option to do all I wanted in less than half the time just without the title of “MD” so I jumped on the opportunity!


HO: Can you describe your professional journey post Oakwood?

SB: After Oakwood I attended Nova Southeastern University where I earned a Bachelors in Physician Assistant Studies and a Masters of Medical Science degree. I was hired by a preceptor upon completion of my training. (make a good impression during clinicals!) I worked in Florida for a few years doing hospital admissions and rounding as well as in the out patient setting.

HO: Where do you currently work?

SB: Currently on Sabbatical but worked for years in Internal Medicine, inpatient (hospitalist) and out-patient (private practice) facilities.


HO: What are your hobbies or interests outside of work?

SB: Movies and TV, Reading, Zumba, Quality time with family and friends


HO: What are good resources for students interested in learning more about becoming a physician assistant?

SB: American Academy of Physician Assistants, National Commission for the Certification of Physician Assistants


HO: What exactly does a physician assistant do?

SB: A Physician Assistant (US) or Physician Associate (UK) is a healthcare professional who is licensed to practice medicine as part of a team with physicians.

PAs are concerned with preventing and treating human illness and injury by providing a broad range of health care services under the supervision of physician or surgeon. They conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, develop treatment plans, perform procedures, prescribe medications, counsel on preventive health care and may assist in surgery.


HO: Can a physician assistant prescribe medications?

SB: Yes


HO: What’s the path to becoming a physician assistant?

SB: Most PA programs offer Masters Degrees, usually less than 3 years to complete. So, obtain a Bachelors Degree in your field of choice as long as you have the pre-requisites for PA school like Chemistry, Anatomy and Physiology, etc. A period of extensive clinical training precedes obtaining a license to practice as a physician assistant, and similar to physician training but shorter in duration, includes all systems of the human body. Renewal of licensure is necessary every few years, varying by jurisdiction. Physician assistants may also complete residency training, similar to physicians’ residencies but significantly shorter, in fields such as OB/GYN, emergency medicine, critical care, orthopedics, neurology, surgery, and other medical disciplines.


HO: What are some of the pros and cons to life as a physician assistant?

SB: The biggest PRO of being a PA is flexibility. Not only are you not limited to a field of medicine to practice but you can choose the setting as well. Whether you like night shifts, 9-5, holidays and weekends off or want to work around the clock you can find the right fit. You can practice pediatrics for a few years then switch to orthopedics or dermatology if you’d like. You’re never locked down.

The only CON I can think of besides paperwork is getting stuck with a supervising physician you don’t get along with or whose view of the PA role is limited. If you and your supervising physician are in the same room you’re not being properly utilized. We are best effective and efficient when working with autonomy.


HO: Can interested students contact you with questions?

SB: Email questions to and I will try to respond quickly.






What Now? – what to do if you’re not accepted.

February 22, 2016

By now, senior prehealth students across the country and the campus are excited as they tote around acceptance /s to professional school. It’s hard to contain their excitement as they see that they are one step closer to the dream of becoming a healthcare professional. This is not the case for the majority of students however. Every year more hopeful students get rejected than get accepted to professional school. Yes, you read that right. Every year the applicant pool gets more competitive and fewer students are accepted. Don’t believe me! Check out the data right here . Looking at this data and doing a little math, you’ll see that in 2006 – 2007, 47% of total applicants were accepted, compared to 41% in 2015-2016 application cycle. So do not be discouraged, it is very very difficult to get into professional school. You’ll also notice that for each year about 25% of the applicants were repeat applicants. So I say all that to say, your goal to become a physician is not out of your reach. However in order to increase your chances of a successful application cycle in the future you have to do a few things.


You’ve taken the time to mourn and wallow in disappointment, while celebrating with your friends, now its time to get to work. First thing you have to do is truly look at your application and identify the deficits. The only thing worse than not being accepted, is to turn around the submit the same application the next time your apply. You can’t improve your application unless your first identify the areas that need improvement. So, where were your deficits: a poorly written personal statement, poor undergraduate grades, less than stellar MCAT score? Inadequate shadowing experience? Poor interviewing skills? Whatever it was, luckily, it can be remedied, but only if you identify it. It’s ok if you find that there are multiple areas where your application could be improved.



Oftentimes people talk about a gap year, but what it really turns out to be is a few years. Remember that the application for professional school is usually submitted 1 year prior to starting classes, so if you planning to reapply for the 2017 entering class you would need to submit your application this summer, which means you don’t have much time to make a lot of improvements. If you have every had a one on one meeting with me, you know I’m all about the timelines. I love timelines because they give a guide as to where you need to be, what you should be doing when. The challenge with the prehealth path is that there is a lot of pre-planning. For eg: summer plans are not made in the summer, they are researched in Nov/December, applied for in January, accepted to in March/April. If you wait till the spring to start thinking of what you’re going to do for the summer, you will find that lots of deadlines for research and enrichment programs are closed. Same for application season. Planning to take the MCAT in August, means your set a light spring semester schedule in Nov/Dec, so you can have time to study during the spring semester. So, if you are planning to reapply and join the 2017 entering class, your timeline will look like this:

March 2016: Launch plan B, since I didn’t get accepted this year

March 2016 – July 2016: Fix whatever deficit there was on my application that played a role in me not being accepted

August 2016: Reapply to medical school

August 2016 – December 2016: *Work. Complete secondary applications

December 2016 – Feb 2017: Interview for medical school

Feb 2017 – May 2017: Sort through my acceptances for medical school and pray about which to go to J

August 2017: Start medical school.

The most important part of this timeline is in bold. March 2016 – July 2016 is NOT that much time and so the deficits you noted when you gave an honest assessment of your application may not be able to be overcome in that short space of time. So, your gap year, goes from being a gap year to a gap 2 years. That is perfectly OK. Realize that many students end up taking 2 years before they start medical school, because one year is spent improving the application and the other is spent going through the process of applying, interviewing and getting accepted. The time in between undergrad and medical school doesn’t really matter. What matters is, is your application better the second time around. Do not reapply until your have crafted a more competitive application.

So what are your options?  Your options depend on where your deficits are.

Poor MCAT score:   Set up a detailed study plan now and prepare to take the test in August. Only do this if you will be able to devote sufficient time daily and more time on weekends to really study. If you aren’t ready to employ a hardcore study schedule, or your class schedule doesn’t permit you to devote much time to specific MCAT studying then defer your plans to start with the 2017 entering class. There is no use to retake the MCAT if you will not have adequate time to prepare well to ensure a better score. This is not the time for blind optimism. Be honest with yourself. MCAT prep takes time. If you don’t have the time, don’t plan to take the test this summer just so you can try and reapply for the entering class of 2017. If you will have time to employ a hardcore schedule, also consider taking a commercial MCAT prep course. They are expensive but can be extremely helpful if utilized appropriately, in conjunction with adequate personal study! You could enroll in the online courses available now, or plan to study on your own for the test of the school year and take a classroom course in your home town this summer.

No shadowing: Contact your home church and see if there are any doctors who will let you shadow. Contact your physician of physician of your parent and see if they will let you shadow. Shoot me an email and I can try and reach out to a physician I may know in your hometown to try and help make a connection. Contact your local hospitals and see if they have job shadowing programs – more offer this program than you think!

Poor undergraduate GPA: Retake some classes. Enroll in a post bacc program for academic improvement.

No research experience: Look for research assistant positions at local universities for full time work, you can participate in after graduation. Research summer research programs, there may still be a few that have deadlines in March.

Poor interviews: Your application was enough to get you interviewed but somehow you ended up with no acceptances. Practice mock interviewing with faculty members, family members in the summer.

Poor personal statement: Have your statement reviewed by faculty, family members, professionals. Consider revamping it if it reads like a resume and simply lists all the things you’ve done in your undergrad years. Read the following posts on the components of a strong personal statement



Finally, don’t give up. Your dream is still in reach, you just gotta work for it. Applicants who need to apply more than once have the same potential to be successful. Like this student.  Allison applied 4 times! Antonio applied 3, and is now in one of the most competitive specialities. IT.IS.POSSIBLE. Know that you are not alone. During the 2015 – 2016 cycle, almost 31,000 people were right where you are now: moving one step closer to medical school by learning from their mistakes and working to develop a more competitive application.

Good luck, keep the faith and know that the plans God has for you, He will bring to fruition in his time!   You are right where you’re supposed to be



Summer Programs

November 7, 2015

There is no such thing as a “free” summer if you’re a prehealth student.   All your free time from freshman year till your graduation should involve some sort of activity that can accentuate your application for professional school.

Options for summer include:

  1. Shadowing
  2. Research
  3. Volunteering
  4. Health related work experience
  5. Enrichment programs

Guidelines for exploring summer opportunities

  1. Going home and doing nothing or nothing clinical is not an option.
  2. Most of these opportunities include a stipend, and room and board.
  3. Doing research / enrichment programs shows a commitment to healthcare and that you’re actively seeking opportunities to learn more / participate in your future career.
  4. Apply to 5 – 7 programs.
  5. Some of these lists are tedious, but stick it out, check out some programs and actually apply to them! A good approach for lists that are extensive is to sort by location. Look at institutions in your home state / city.  Another approach is to look at schools that you may be interested in going to for professional school.

 Research Programs

Extensive list of opportunities.  Divides opportunities by areas of interest. Includes dental programs

Another already compiled list of tons of programs. Organized by state. Enjoy J

Nicely organized list that has programs arranged by state.

Nicely organized list that has programs arranged by state.

Links to many programs across the country.

2015 List but some of the links are active for the upcoming summer.

Links to several summer programs across the country. Beware that a few links are outdated, but most are active.

NIH research opportunities

EXTENSIVE list of opportunities. A good way to approach this list is to first scan by location.  Look at institutions in your home state / city.  Another approach is to look at schools that you may be interested in going to for professional school.  This list also includes industry opportunities / organizational opportunities as well.

Enrichment programs

This is link to the AAMC summer enrichment program database. It is searchable by education level, state, and program focus.

Volunteer / Medical / Clinical

Volunteer medical programs abroad

Dental Programs

Not the only list what includes programs for dental school, but it’s a great one to start with.


June 2, 2015

Coming up for air after a long hiatus!  We had an electronic hiatus but face to face meetings with students definitely picked up over the past 3 months and as a result, online posting fell to the wayside.  Definitely plan to work on that for upcoming busy periods.   Look forward to continuing to provide valuable content as you journey towards becoming a healthcare professional.

Personal Statement Tips

February 26, 2015

Writing a personal statement for professional school can be a daunting experience. This article will offer key tips on drafting a personal statement that displays your strengths and uniqueness.

How to Start?

Just start! The writing process will require multiple drafts. Begin by writing whatever comes to mind as it pertains to your application process. As you continue to write, your ideas will become more focused and you will be able to add and delete what you do and do not want to use.

Get to the point. Admissions will read thousands of personal statements. Do not bore them with flowery language and nonessential details or stories. You can always start with explaining why you are pursuing this area of study or a pivotal experience that pushed you in the career you are pursuing.

What are admissions committees looking for?

Most schools use your personal statement to understand who you are as a person and who you will be as a future professional. Schools especially look for examples of leadership, overcoming obstacles, areas of interest, and commitment to society. Think carefully about your experiences and only discuss those experiences that portray you positively. It may help to review your resume and next to each experience categorize it was “leadership”, “community service”, etc. Then use your resume as an outline to help you draft your statement.

What should I put in my personal statement?

Your personal statement should highlight your unique qualities and your ambitions for the future in your career. Use your resume/CV to guide your writing. Think about experiences that changed you as a person, solidified your decision to pursue this career, or particular areas of interests. Remember to always answer the ‘Why’. Why do you want to be a doctor? Why did a particular experience make you a better person? Why is helping others important to you? Include research experiences, poster presentations, involvement in organizations/clubs. Do not simply state that you were involved in various experiences be sure to explain how the experiences have shaped you as a person.

Lastly, always, always have someone read your statement and offer feedback.


Natalie Blake, B.A. English, M.A. English Education, offers consultation on writing and editing personal statements and essays. She has assisted clients who have been accepted to Nursing, Medical, Dental and Law Schools. For more information on services, email: