Featured Osteopathic Family Physician:
Joanna Drowos, DO

Dr. Joanna Drowos was born in Toronto and lived there until her family moved to Coral Springs, Florida, when she was in high school. While she has always had an interest in medicine, she credits her aunt, a physician, who helped inspire her to pursue that career path.

Dr. Drowos currently serves as an Assistant Professor of Clinical Biomedical Science in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University. Her transition to an academic career provides more flexibility in order to spend time with her family.

She’s the Associate Chair of the Integrated Medical Science Department and the Director for the Clinical and Preventive Medicine Clerkship for the third year curriculum.

She completed a Pediatrics tracked Internship at Palms West Hospital followed by a Preventive Medicine Residency with the Palm Beach County Health Department and a Family Practice Residency at Broward General Medical Center. She is board certified in Preventive Medicine, Family Medicine and Medical Quality.

She has been honored as the American Osteopathic Foundation’s Emerging Leader in 2011 and the Merck 2008 Outstanding Resident of the Year. She was recognized as the American Medical Association’s Outstanding Resident – Excellence in Medicine 2008 Award Recipient.

Dr. Drowos serves on the Board of Trustees for the American College of Osteopathic Occupational and Preventive Medicine, and chaired the New Physicians and Residents Committee for the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians for four years.
She also serves on the American Osteopathic Association’s Communications Bureau, and the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians Public Health and Wellness and Membership Committees.

When she was an osteopathic student, she also struggled with deciding on the right specialty. She felt as if there were so many options from which to choose and that she was interested in many areas of medicine.

She advises that students should pick a specialty that they feel they can do on a daily basis. She said that selected family medicine because she wanted to take care of patients throughout their lives and develop long-term relationships with patients. She has been able to tailor her career in order to be able to spend time with the people she loves most – her husband, Bryan, and children Lila and Jackson.

Q: What kind of person makes the best osteopathic family physician?
I think the best person to become an osteopathic family physician is someone who really cares about people and who wants to take care of a variety of different kinds of patients’ problems. This is a career where you can be successful through the long-term relationships that you build with patients and their families. The best osteopathic family physician is someone who is a lifelong learner, has intellectual curiosity, likes solving problems and loves taking care of children as much as taking care of the elderly.

Q: What is your best advice for students who are undecided?
Think about the fact that the specialty you are going to choose is what you will wake up every day to do. It should be something that when you think about doing it, you look forward to going to work and know that you will feel satisfaction at the end of every day.  I was undecided and I went back and forth because there were so many things I wanted to do. As a woman, I also thought about what I wanted in terms of lifestyle.  I now know that it is possible to set up your career to have any lifestyle that you prefer in any specialty.  So I chose what makes me feel like I want to get out of bed every day and go to work, and I have never regretted it.

Q: What is your favorite aspect of osteopathic family medicine?
I think that we bring something extra to our patients. I’m teaching in an allopathic medical school and while our students are wonderful, I think there is a special set of skills that we bring with our views and understanding of osteopathic principles that really provides benefit to patients.

Q: Why did you go into osteopathic family medicine?
I was drawn to osteopathic family medicine because I wanted to be the kind of physician who develops long-term relationships with patients. Primary care was appealing for this reason.  I actually selected Pediatrics for my Internship after medical school because I love taking care of children.  What I quickly realized though is that I missed taking care of adults and felt as if I wanted the opportunity to do it all.  If a patient reaches a certain age or has a specific type of problem, I still want to be able to take care of them.

Q: What do you know now in regard to selecting a specialty that you wish you knew when you were an osteopathic medical student?
The advice I give to my students is that they shouldn’t be afraid that family medicine doesn’t have as great of a lifestyle as other specialties. If they work in primary care settings and love the relationships they have with patients then it is probably the right choice for them. The truth is you should choose what you love to do, and then set up your career to make everything else work around that.

Q: What qualities should students look for in a mentor and what are some red flags for them to avoid?
The best mentors are the ones who are really invested in your success and not looking for you to advance their careers through writing papers for them. They shouldn’t be helping you just for their own fame and glory. Their commitment should be to providing you with support and thinking about what is in your best interest.

Students should look for opportunities to have a variety of mentors who can serve different roles. I have a peer mentor who I reach out to for support, accountability and to bounce ideas off of because we are at a similar stage. I have a mentor at my own institution who is very senior – an experienced academician – who can open doors and help with long-term career planning. I also have a mentor who is five years ahead of me who can help me with short term planning and balancing where I am with my family now. Each teaches me something different and brings something valuable to our relationship. Students should think about mentoring in a broad sense and should consider what they can bring to a relationship – even if it is something like help with technology.

Q: What have your mentors taught you?
The greatest lesson I have learned from my mentor is that you are never too young or too early in your career to achieve anything that you want.

Q: What specific questions should students ask their mentors?
They should ask how they got where they are, what they wish they had known when they are at their stages. They should use their mentor to help them with career decisions, identifying opportunities and plotting the specific steps to achieving goals.

Published April, 2015