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