Walking the path with patients, students

Noreen O'Shea, D.O., FAAFPNoreen O’Shea, D.O.’84, FAAFP, readily admits she was “scared” about joining the DMU family medicine program in March 2014, but in the time since she’s aptly applied the wisdom of Lucille Ball to “face your fear and it will disappear.” To name just some of the assistant professor’s contributions to the University:

  • She took over the family medicine clerkship and the related duty of visiting physicians at DMU’s clerkship sites.
  • Despite having never directed a course, she volunteered to organize the preventative medicine and nutrition course.
  • She also revamped the dermatology course, finding new lecturers and defining objectives based on the teaching recommendations of the American Academy of Dermatology. She delivered about a quarter of the course’s lectures, too.
  • She poured herself into these endeavors, exceeding her academic time allotment by well over 800 hours, while also serving patients in the DMU Clinic.

In addition to her work at DMU, on Oct. 30 O’Shea was installed as president of the Iowa Academy of Family Physicians (IAFP) after serving two-year terms as vice president and president-elect.

“She’s passionate about creating more good doctors and good family physicians,” says Bret Ripley, D.O., FACOFP, FPLI, assistant professor and chair of family medicine. “She didn’t just deliver the curriculum. She rewrote it and made it better. She went far above and beyond expectations.”

O’Shea works to train future physicians in the same way she’s long delivered patient care — with passion. After graduation from DMU, an internship at Pontiac Osteopathic Hospital in Pontiac, MI, and a residency at Creighton University-St. Joseph’s Hospital in Omaha, NE, she and her spouse, Thomas Benzoni, D.O.’83, AOBEM, FACEP, ABFM — also an assistant professor of family medicine at DMU and a longtime emergency medical physician — practiced for four years with the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) in Appalachia. Prior to joining the DMU faculty, she was medical director for Elk Point Community Health Center in Elk Point, SD, caring for many elderly patients and those with low or no health insurance. She led the center in adding evening and weekend hours and mental health services.

“Not everyone can visit doctors during bankers’ hours,” she says. “Working at the center was a perfect fit. I liked the challenge of making do on a shoestring and giving patients the most cost-effective care. It increases your creativity. I call it ‘walking the path with your patients.’”

O’Shea works to train future physicians in the same way she’s long delivered patient care — with passion.

That connection has a powerful impact on students. “Dr. O’Shea is a brilliant physician, yet she continues to learn from her patients,” says Jessica Gustavson, D.O.’16, who spent most of her family medicine rotation with the doctor. “She has a huge heart and will advocate for her patients and students alike.”

O’Shea “walks the path” with students in part by sharing her experiences from her own DMU student days and from her career. Last year, while interviewing prospective students with Morgan Jaquez, D.O.’18, she talked about her time with the NHSC.

“That was something I was really interested in. After the interviews, I went to her office and we talked for an hour,” Jaquez says. “Access to health care is one of the few class distinctions left in this country, which is something Dr. O’Shea talks about in her lectures.”

O’Shea went on to write a recommendation in support of Jaquez’s application to the NHSC; in exchange for her three-year commitment to work at an NHSC site in a high-need, underserved area after she graduates, the Corps will pay for three years of her DMU tuition.

“Dr. O’Shea is passionate and dedicated to say the least,” she says. “She really contributes to our education and truly cares about it. She’s one of those people that you meet and think, ‘I want to be that person when I grow up.’”

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