A childhood dream becomes reality
Who can say where dreams begin? For Octavia Amaechi, MD, the dream of being a doctor started with a TV show and a childhood of supportive family and teachers.
Today, Dr. Amaechi shares her dream, as a teacher of other doctors and a part of the Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System family.
This September, Spartanburg Regional joins medical professionals across the United States to celebrate Women In Medicine Month.
Dr. Amaechi shared her thoughts about the challenges for women in medicine, and why she relishes her life as a physician.
What inspired you to get into the field of medicine?
I've always loved learning about how things work, especially our bodies. “Bill Nye the Science Guy” was my favorite after-school show and I found the episodes about how the GI tract works, or the effects of smoking on the lungs, particularly exciting.
My family and teachers recognized and fostered my interests, and a career in medicine became the natural path for me.
What challenges have you faced throughout your career?
Completing training and navigating an early career is its own unique learning process for all physicians. I recently transitioned from a hospitalist to clinical faculty.
I've found it challenging to think of myself in a teaching or advisory role for new physicians, as I have a deep respect for the broad scope of care provided by family medicine physicians. However, meeting that challenge is an absolute joy and something I plan to continually improve upon.
What should women know before pursuing a career in medicine?
There are societal expectations and biases that would deter women from reaching their highest potential in medicine. Thankfully, we live in a moment where this is at least recognized more than ever before and opportunities for women physicians to succeed are indeed becoming more available and accessible.
What challenges remain in medicine that are unique to women?
There is clear evidence that women physicians across all fields have disparities in salary, attaining leadership roles, being awarded funding for studies and face criticism for dually managing time requirements and the responsibilities of motherhood.
For our profession to advance, we need to equip all physicians to practice to the best of their desired ability. We all have a role and a duty to ensure women physicians can do just that.
Who mentored you during your career journey? Who do you look up to?
Dr. Patricia Bouknight is the program director of the family medicine residency program where I trained and recently joined as faculty. She was my officially designated advisor during residency and I have found her to be an amazing mentor for this transition in my career.
Watching her successfully navigate changes in our program and manage one of the first and largest family medicine programs in the Southeast is a daily source of motivation and encouragement.
I continue to admire Dr. Michelle Carney and Dr. Robin Garrell as they both exemplify patient advocacy, leadership, work-life balance; in short, the spectrum of what woman physicians are capable of.
Why do you love being a part of the medical field?
It is a pleasure providing an avenue towards wellness for people in varying stages of health. I take pride in staying updated on the management of the full scope of family medicine and then teaching that to new and future physicians.
I hope to inspire future generations of women physicians that feel a career in medicine in not accessible to them.
Lastly, I'm still the same person I was in my childhood who just loves understanding how our amazing body works.
How are you working to support and engage future women physicians?
It turns out, physicians are busy! In addition to my work at the residency program, I volunteer at the local free medical clinic, am involved in my church, my children's school and also prioritize my time with family and friends.
Still, I think it's equally important to carve out time to share my experience with young women interested in medicine. In the past, I've met with small groups and individual medical students through SWIM (Spartanburg Women in Medicine) and HOPE Church to share a bit of myself and what my day-to-day physician life is like.
This past week, a student from Wofford College shadowed our Family Medicine Inpatient Service. After rounds, we spent time on her gearing her college path to make her a competitive applicant for medical school.
I will be traveling to Columbia tomorrow morning to meet with medical students interested in becoming family medicine physicians. I hope my small doses of encouragement will motivate these women to ignore deterrents and push on toward their future in medicine.
Octavia Amaechi, MD, serves as a physician at Spartanburg Medical Center - Center for Family Medicine.