Featured Osteopathic Family Physician:
Bernadette Riley, DO

Ever since she was 5 years old, Dr. Bernadette Riley knew she wanted to be a doctor. After graduating from Fordham University with a major in biology, Dr. Riley entered the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine, now called the New York Institute of Technology’s College of Osteopathic Medicine. She has been an osteopathic physician since 2005, and now she treats about 1,000 patients in a Long Island hospital. Her average day consists of taking care of patients, teaching residents and researching.

Picking a specialty can be very hard on some, and she advises students to ask themselves what kind of lifestyle they want. Family medicine offers more free time for family and personal pursuits than other specialties. It also takes someone who is a people person, who doesn’t easily become aggravated and who cares about the continuity of care relationship with patients because sometimes family physicians treat the same patients for years.

She said a student should select a mentor who has a good professional life and work/life balance. Also, it’s important to be open to actively finding a mentor. Some students might think they will find mentors along their professional career paths. But sometimes they may have to make it a point of finding mentors. Additionally, she said, it’s important for students to find out how prospective mentors treat their residents and if they are active on state board medical societies. It’s also critical for students to observe how prospective mentors interact with them in conversations. If they appear to be overwhelmed or distracted, these prospective mentors probably won’t have enough time to mentor appropriately.

Once students have settled on their mentors, they should ask their mentors questions like how they got where they are professionally, steps they took to be known in their fields, educational experiences that they had that allowed them to obtain fellowships and how they balance their personal lives and professional careers. One of the most critical lessons she learned from one of her mentors is the importance of staying calm in high-pressured situations.

Q: Why did you go into osteopathic family medicine?
I like the continuity of care, being the doctor for families and the ability to teach residents, interns and students.

Q: What is your favorite aspect of osteopathic family medicine?

I like having the privilege to work with patients and their families on their chronic medical conditions and to work with and mentor students, interns and residents.

Q: What is your best advice for students who are undecided about family medicine?

Look at all the programs and specialties that are available. Look at the locations of where you want to be and look at where financially you want to be in five years.

Q: What kind of person makes the best kind of osteopathic family physician?

A person with a lot of empathy, patience, enthusiasm and commitment to provide excellent patient care.

Published May, 2015