There are two paths to becoming a medical doctor: MD (allopathic medicine or what most people call conventional) and DO (osteopathic medicine). The paths are similar with the same number of years of training and the same kind of testing, but there is a different philosophy behind osteopathic medicine as well as additional hands-on manipulation therapy training.
I knew for years I wanted to become a physician but struggled with my path. For a time, I was a single parent and it was hard to find affordable and compassionate medical care for my children and myself. When in desperate need and without insurance, a friend recommended an osteopathic physician that would see me without insurance and charge an affordable office visit fee. The doctor was friendly, relaxed and concerned about my whole well-being, not what insurance I had. I went home from that visit and immediately began researching osteopathy.
My research revealed that osteopathy was about the mind, body and soul. It was about treating the cause and not the symptoms and it was focused on primary care. This was the right kind of medicine for me! I spent the next six years finishing my undergraduate degree, studying for the medical school entrance exams (MCATs) and working full-time to get by while preparing to apply to osteopathic medical schools. I faced uncertainty about my decision and worried that I would not be able to complete the rigorous training, but at each turning point in my life, an event would happen that reminded me I was on the right path.
As I waited at the Portland airport, I thought that I should give it up, that I couldn’t do it, that it was going to be too hard, that I wouldn’t be able to spend enough time with my children or my partner. I looked around me and realized that the person sitting a few chairs away was also studying for an exam . . . the MCATs! While waiting to board, I struck up a conversation with yet another person who happened to be a student at an osteopathic medical school. The message couldn’t have been clearer: I was meant to continue on and become an osteopathic physician.
In the fall of 2009, I applied to school and was both nervous and elated to receive only one invitation to interview. That one invitation was all I needed: I was accepted to A. T. Still University - School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona (ATSU-SOMA)! Since I began medical school at age 39, I worried about how challenging this journey would be. Would I, in the midst of so many younger students be able to succeed, while at the same time being a supportive partner and parent? It was tough at the beginning but each year has brought more joy than sorrow. I know this is my purpose. I learn something new from every patient I see and every doctor, MA, nurse and provider that I work with. And every day I learn from my children and partner that my family is crucial to my success. I have been given the opportunity to serve and learn for the rest of my life. I couldn’t ask for a greater reward.
Editor's Note: Dr. J, as she likes to be called, is available to see patients from birth to end of life at HealthPoint Auburn.
The residency program is a partnership with ATSU, The Wright Center and MultiCare Health System.