Female Faces of OMC
Celebrating OMC’s Female Physicians on National Doctors Day
By Kim Wood
WEST PLAINS, Mo – March 30 is the observance of National Doctors’
Day. A day to celebrate and recognize the contributions of physicians
to all of us and our communities. This year Ozarks Medical Center (OMC)
is celebrating by shining the spotlight on their female physicians.
Today in the United States, 34 percent of all practicing physicians are
female, while 50 percent of all medical students are female. In fact for
the first time ever, female medical school enrollees outnumber male, 50.7
to 49.3 percent (2017, Association of American Medical Colleges). Since
2015, the number of female enrollees has grown by 9.6 percent, while the
number of male enrollees has declined by 2.3 percent.
Currently there are 43 female physicians and mid-level providers practicing
as part of the multi-disciplinary OMC Medical Group. The four women profiled
here provide an intriguing glimpse of the broader community of women doctors
who are making a difference at OMC.
Jennifer Lambert, D.O., Board Certified Family Practice Physician: Dr. Jennifer Lambert always knew she wanted to help people, she just didn’t
realize that it would be as a physician, or in the Ozarks.
Originally from Massachusetts, she came to Missouri as an undergraduate
student with a biology/pre-med major, intending to pursue a doctorate
in exercise physiology. Working as a personal trainer, she enjoyed working
with people and the one-on-one interaction, but she longed to help people
in a more meaningful way.
After graduation, she spent a year job shadowing a rural family medicine
physician who also practiced obstetrics and anesthesia. She got a true
glimpse of that type of practice and loved it. She observed her mentor
be very active in the community and with his patients and she really liked
that. When the physician suggested she apply to medical school, that’s
what she did.
Often medical students enter medical school thinking that they want to
pursue a particular specialty and throughout their rotations change their
minds. Dr. Lambert entered knowing that she wanted to practice family
medicine in a rural underserved community, never wavering from that decision.
Family physicians deliver a range of acute, chronic, and preventive medical
care services while providing patients with a patient-centered medical home.
In addition to diagnosing and treating illness, they also provide preventive
care, including routine checkups, health-risk assessments, immunization
and screening tests, and personalized counseling on maintaining a healthy
lifestyle. Family physicians also manage chronic illness, often coordinating
care provided by other specialists.
Dr. Lambert started her career with a large healthcare system but found
it challenging. OMC presented the best of both worlds, “OMC offers
a breadth of specialties for my patients,” said Dr. Lambert. “But
I’m not lost in the shuffle and can effectively serve as an advocate
for my patients.”
She says that she never felt any additional challenges as a woman, and
perhaps because she remained her authentic self, she was treated equally.
As a female practitioner, she believes her perspective may make her more
attuned to the emotions of her patients, especially in dealing with moms,
children, discussing women’s health issues and in particular mental
health issues. She theorizes that female patients may often feel more
comfortable opening up about sensitive health issues.
Dr. Jennifer Lambert practices at OMC Family Medicine, 312 Kentucky Ave.,
West Plains. For more information, call 417-505-7100.
Rhea M. Kurian, M.D., Obstetrics/Gynecology: Women’s Healthcare Practitioner Dr. Kurian may have been destined
for her specialty, but she didn’t know that it would be in the United States.
Dr. Kurian comes from a family of medical practitioners, and specifically
obstetrics/gynecology (OB-GYN). Her family in India initially discouraged
her from the discipline as it was very demanding from a work-life balance
perspective. Babies seldom arrive on anyone’s schedule.
An OB-GYN, has expertise in female reproductive health, pregnancy, and
childbirth. Some OB-GYNs offer a wide range of general health services
similar to your primary care doctor. Others focus on the medical care
of the female reproductive system. OB-GYNs also provide routine medical
services and preventive screenings.
As a high school student she knew she wanted to go into medicine. It was
on medical outreach trips to rural locations in India that solidified
her interest in women’s health. She would assist medical personnel
that were administering pap smears and women’s health screenings
to a population who did
not have regular access to these services. Culturally these women didn’t
have access nor would they prioritize preventative healthcare and only
sought medical attention as their conditions became dire.
Many of those women could have been helped significantly had they received
timely preventative care. The experience had a profound effect on her,
and she is a passionate advocate for regular early health screenings for
women. She tells her patients that they need to prioritize their health,
for themselves and their families.
Originally, she had planned to practice in India. However after marrying
OMC surgeon Dr. Joseph, they decided to make their home in the United
States. Specifically they both wanted to practice somewhere with a small-town
vibe. With two young daughters, West Plains was a place they could call home.
For Dr. Kurian, another benefit of OMC that appealed to her, was the colleagues
that she would be practicing with. She was looking for a mentor and teacher
that could help her elevate her practice and more importantly, care for
her patients as she would, when she wasn’t available. “You
can’t be there 24/7 for your patients as you would like to be, “says
Dr. Kurian. “You are part of a team, and have to rely on the other
physicians and nurses to have the confidence that they will provide your
patients the very best care.”
As a woman, wife and mother, she feels she can empathize with her patients.
She understands that clinical procedures may be routine to her, but they
are not to her patients. They are vulnerable and she tries to be mindful
of that – whether it’s placing posters on the ceilings of
the exam room or giving an emotional patient some extra time – she
wants these women to know that she values their trust.
Dr. Reah Kurian practices at OMC Women’s Health Care, 1627 Gibson
Ave., West Plains. For more information, call 417-256-1838.
Samantha Wallace, D.O., Medical Director, Hospitalist Team: As a young woman growing up in small town Missouri, she witnessed first-hand
the challenges that several family members had in managing their chronic
She was always fascinated by science, and specifically anatomy and physiology.
Her involvement in a high school healthcare program solidified her decision
to pursue medicine. When looking at colleges she prioritized those with
a strong pre-med program and as well as the opportunity to continue playing
softball. Central Methodist University in Fayette, MO, fit the bill.
As she progressed through her medical school rotations, it became clear
to her that she wanted to practice family medicine as a hospitalist.
Hospitalists are physicians whose primary professional focus is the general
medical care of hospitalized patients. The discipline of hospital medicine
grew out of the increasing complexity of patients requiring hospital care
and the need for dedicated clinicians to oversee their management. By
focusing their practice on this specific group of patients, hospitalists
gain specialized knowledge in managing very ill patients and are able
to provide high-quality and efficient patient and family-centered care
in the hospital.
She completed her family medicine residency at Cox, Springfield and then
made her way to OMC and West Plains. Her husband, Zeb Wallace, was already
working in the West Plains school district, so she naturally considered
OMC. Having both grown up in small towns in Missouri they wanted the same
for their children. They liked the West Plains community, school district
and the good medical system at OMC.
As a Hospitalist, Dr. Wallace possibly deals with patients and their families
at their most vulnerable. They are in the hospital and possible coming
to terms with a new diagnosis. As a woman and a mother, she feels that
bringing her nurturing personality to these difficult discussions is often helpful.
Dr. Wallace also has recently been named as Medical Director for OMC’s
Hospitalist Group. Not only is she a trained physician but also has a
Master of Business Administration, bringing management experience to assist
in managing the department.
Susan Jolly, M.D., Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon: Dr. Jolly was always interested in biological sciences and as a self-professed
people person, she also enjoys caring for and helping people. Medicine
was the best way she saw to satisfy both goals.
In medical school, one of her first rotations was orthopedics and she fell
in love with it, immediately knowing that was where she needed to be.
Orthopedic surgeons are devoted to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment
of disorders of the bones, joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles. Orthopedic
surgeons are trained to treat all aspects of the musculoskeletal system
however many orthopedic surgeons specialize in specific areas, such as
hand, shoulder and elbow, spine, hip, knee or foot and ankle.
To her, it was the best way she felt she could improve her patients’
lives. “When someone has high blood pressure or diabetes, you manage
it,” she explains. “A broken bone, arthritis, or a torn rotator
cuff are things that I can fix and absolutely make their lives better.”
She completed her residency as a general orthopedist but wanted to be able
to provide the highest quality of care possible, so she completed a fellowship
in arthritis and adult reconstruction (total joint reconstruction).
As a result of her studies and years of practice, she also is able to perform
revision surgery. Patients who have had a prior surgery that did not achieve
a positive outcome, come to her for corrective surgery.
Dr. Jolly grew up in a small town until she went to college in a big city.
She then spent years studying and practicing in larger markets. As the
years went on, she found it increasingly difficult to practice the way
she wanted to in a large city. She wanted to practice in a community that
she could give back to her patients and truly be her authentic self.
OMC gave her that community with its small town and multidiscipline healthcare
system that could provide all of her patients’ needs.
Orthopedics is a specialty that is typically male-dominated, and can be
perceived as somewhat impersonal focusing on the procedure (task-oriented)
vs. on caring for the total patient. As a female, Dr. Jolly feels that
she is naturally caring and nurturing, allowing her to provide Patient-focused
holistic care. Within orthopedics, her focus as a total joint specialist
is even more male dominated than the general specialty. She liked the
idea of being different in that field and letting patients know that they
Dr. Jolly knows she has to earn the trust of her patient, it is not given.
If a patient indicates that they question her qualifications, she knows
she needs to step back and take the time to address their concerns and
win their confidence. She is happy to say a great many of her patients
are repeat or referral patients, which speaks highly to her manner of care.
Dr. Susan Jolly practices at OMC Orthopedics located at 1210 N. Kentucky,
West Plains. If your physician thinks you may benefit from orthopedic
care, they can call 417-256-1745.
As different as these physicians are in their disciplines, their motivations
for practicing medicine are similar, as are their reasons for choosing
OMC and West Plains. An early fascination with biological sciences combined
with an earnest desire to positively affect their communities led these
four women to medicine and specifically to OMC.
“Excellence in delivering quality, compassionate care is dependent
on diverse individuals seamlessly coming together as a multidisciplinary
team,” says Pam Ream, Vice President, OMC Medical Group. “Female
physicians are revolutionizing the field in powerful ways, contributing
their unique gifts and strengths to the advancement of healthcare at OMC.”
Ozarks Medical Center is a system of care encompassing eight primary care
and 16 specialty clinics, along with complete rehabilitation, behavioral
healthcare and home care services. While the 114-bed acute care hospital
cares for more than 5,400 admissions, the entire medical system has more
than 364,000 patient visits annually in South Central Missouri and Northern
Arkansas. For more information about OMC, visit
These physicians and nurse practitioners are just some of the more than
40 female providers at OMC.
Pictured left to right are: Dr. Jen Lambert, Family Medicine; Christy Russell,
APN, Urology; Susan Kenslow, APN, Oncology; Dawn Clough, APN, Neurology;
Dr. Archana Sinha, Cardiology; Julie Gunter, APN, Cardiology; Dr. Mary
Pendergrass, Family Medicine; Jennifer Rhoads, WHNP, OB/GYN; Dr. Reah
Kurian, OB/GYN; Dr. Clara Applegate, Neurology; all of Ozarks Medical Center.