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Female Faces of OMC

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 health conditions.

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 have options.

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 www.OzarksMedicalCenter.com.

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.


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