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NBOME

Stories from the Road: Interview with Carisa Champion, DO, JD, MPH, On Her Fellowship with Grey’s Anatomy

December 11, 2020

NBOME Resident Ambassador, Carisa Champion, DO, JD, MPH, was selected to be a fellow in the Grey’s Anatomy Surgical Communications Fellowship that took place over the summer. We had the chance to sit down with her to briefly discuss her accomplishments and talk more about her own unique Road to DO licensure.

NBOME Resident Ambassador, Carisa Champion, DO, JD, MPH, was selected to be a fellow in the Grey’s Anatomy Surgical Communications Fellowship that took place over the summer. We had the chance to sit down with her to briefly discuss her accomplishments and talk more about her own unique Road to DO licensure.


What inspired you to become a physician? And what drew you to become a DO, specifically?

Growing up, I participated in medical mission trips with my family, and because of that, I was drawn to the field of healthcare—particularly nutrition and other adjunctive healthcare practices. While at Florida State, I learned about the field of public health, and realized that was ultimately what I wanted to be involved in. I also learned about osteopathic medicine and its focus on preventative healthcare during the same timeframe.

Since preventative healthcare was something I wanted to pursue, I specifically applied to DO schools around the country as well as to schools that were close to a law school or also had a public health program because I knew that I wanted to be in public health and use my physician background in that role.

The tenets of osteopathic medicine align well with public health because population health and good public health have a lot to do with preventative health. So, the idea that osteopathic medicine had always been focused on that and is a big part of COM culture and their curricula was attractive to me. I wanted to be able to explore nutrition, lifestyle, and all of those things that contribute to a person’s overall health—not just someone who’s sick, but the person’s whole self. I believe that everything from culture to community is part of osteopathic medicine.

There is so much about being a DO that is special and unique. We often hear the phrase ‘osteopathic distinctiveness’ used across the profession. What does that phrase mean to you, personally?

A lot of answers to our health problems lie in the tenets of osteopathic medicine. We’re dealing with so many health issues—from the opiate crisis to burnout and mental illness. Osteopathic medicine is more than a reaction to those needs of the day. It speaks to all of those areas and it always has because it looks at the whole person.

Thinking back to COMLEX-USA, would you have done anything differently, taken a different approach to studying, or focused less on certain things, more on others? What advice do you have for the COM students coming after you?

For me, I took my COMLEX-USA Level 1 exam during my first semester of law school, and that was one of the hardest times of my entire life—trying to balance my first semester of law school and studying for my first level of COMLEX-USA. I would have certainly changed the timing of that. I think it’s important to make time to study for these exams, and I would have started studying for them a lot earlier. I think there were people in my class that had Board study books in the first semester of medical school that they were referring to with every class they took. If we were studying different diseases or pathologies, they were already referring to their Board study books, where I was just focusing on the class materials. Osteopathic medical schools are meant to prepare you to be a good physician and not someone who is just good at taking tests, but I think that’s something that is a good idea to incorporate into your studying so that you’re aware of both.

What made you choose to specialize in general surgery?

I was drawn to surgery for the same reasons I was drawn to medicine as a career. I grew up doing medical missions and saw the disparities surrounding underserved populations. Surgeons are not only able to impact a community with medical care, but with surgical care as well. I’ve felt that this has prepared me to best serve broadly underserved populations.

We know there is a tremendous amount of stress and anxiety tied to this journey. How did you manage the stress? What worked best for you?

I think that mental health is something that is easy to lose sight of, especially when you’re going a million miles an hour. I learned that you have to take time to reconnect with who you are, and I’d actually schedule time to do so before I felt burnt out and it became an issue. I learned through different experiences that when you’re doing things that energize you and that you’re passionate about, you get more energy and that mental space to devote yourself to other things. I was involved in a lot of things that I was passionate about, and that gave me the motivation to do well in school because to be involved in clubs at my particular university, you had to have a certain GPA. Because of that, I wanted to keep all of my grades up so I could continue to be involved because I loved it.

I also think it is ideal for people to see a counselor and incorporate healthy practices for mental health proactively. Eventually I realized how large an issue this is, and saw compelling research that the COSGP did a couple years ago which showed staggering numbers of medical students that were actually planning to commit suicide—not just had thought about it, but were actually planning on doing it. With that in mind, I think it’s a really big deal to proactively take care of mental health.

What motivated you to apply for the Grey’s Anatomy fellowship?

Passion—this opportunity enabled me to connect my masters of public health and my interest in media together. I’ve enjoyed conducting research on many topics over the years, and the studies I’m involved in have the potential to be read by other doctors. Also, the general public also gets much of their health information from the media. Grey’s Anatomy prides itself on increasingly aiming to be medically accurate, and I’m excited to be a part of that!

What experiences led you to stand out and be offered the Grey’s Anatomy Fellowship?

Passion—this opportunity enabled me to connect my masters of public health and my interest in media together. I’ve enjoyed conducting research on many topics over the years, and the studies I’m involved in have the potential to be read by other doctors. Also, the general public also gets much of their health information from the media. Grey’s Anatomy prides itself on increasingly aiming to be medically accurate, and I’m excited to be a part of that!

How did your Grey’s Anatomy Fellowship go?

It went really well! I learned a lot, and I got to work with talented people who were very welcoming. I learned how much goes into this—things no one would typically know unless they’re there. And it was amazing to see the commitment they have on set in making sure that everything is medically accurate and tells stories that are important. All the medical issues depicted on the show have actually happened; it won’t be added to the show unless there is a case report. There are a lot of medical consultants for the show and I was able to talk to them about their experiences. Of course, the show has the weirdest, craziest, and the rarest things that are exciting and interesting to know about, but they’re still real.


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