Hiding 'Owies,' Healing People: How My Time On The Yakama Reservation Drove Me To Osteopathy


Throughout my journey to pursue medicine as a career, I have had many opportunities to interact with rural and underserved populations. These experiences have instilled in me an unshakeable perspective on many of the issues currently facing so many communities throughout the Northwest.

Interacting with the people from these communities from multiple perspectives -- as a security officer, lab assistant, physician shadow, and volunteer -- has made me acutely aware of the challenges facing these communities, including a lack of accessibility to healthcare, language barriers, and lack of trust.

The opportunity to address these challenges has played a significant role in my determination to specifically attend an osteopathic medical school and become a collaborative primary care physician focused on preventative care. As an employee in the laboratory at a 25 bed, rural healthcare facility, I was frequently reminded of the above challenges.

Interacting with patients, I frequently heard them lament that their physicians just didn’t seem to care enough; often they told me that I talked to them more than their own physician! These expressed thoughts struck me, and have stuck with me on my journey to pursue a career in medicine.

If there’s one concept I have learned from being a healthcare worker and having the opportunity to work with such a distinct population, it’s that people – no matter their race, religion, economic standing, location or life experience -- want to be engaged in their medical care.

Forming a genuine relationship, even if it means attempting to speak a foreign language, facilitates the development of trust.


I can’t tell you how often I’ve gotten giggles out of a patient for giving them my one liner of the best “español” I know. Once trust is established, the patients are more likely to engage in promoting their own health of mind, body, and spirit.

The most impactful experience in my determination to attend an osteopathic medical school occurred when I was working as a physician shadow on the Yakama Reservation. That day, as I held the split lips and battered cheek of a sexual assaulted Native American woman in place as they were stitched back together by the physician, I experienced firsthand the motto of “mind, body, and spirit” as demonstrated by the osteopathic physician on duty.

Watching him work, it was clear that he was doing more than just stitching her face and making her another statistic. Instead, he was actively forming a genuine relationship and gaining her trust during an unfathomable time of hurt.

While her main concern was “hiding the ‘owies’ on mom’s face” from her two younger children, the osteopathic physician offered her moments of peace and tranquility during a time when she was most sensitive. That particular patient had an everlasting effect on myself and my desire to adapt a holistic approach in providing medical care. By the end of her care, she was comfortable enough to share her life journey and pictures of her children with me. It was in that moment that I witnessed firsthand the positive difference our efforts had made on her life -- not only as a patient, but as a person.

It was in that moment that I witnessed firsthand the positive difference our efforts had made on her life — not only as a patient, but as a person.

Overall, these experiences with the rural/underserved populations were invaluable in forming my desire to becoming a primary care physician trained at an osteopathic medical school. What I’ve seen has helped me realize that training in osteopathic principles and practices is essential for developing genuine relationships with my patients, gaining their trust, and learning about their lives and needs in order to treat the patient with the symptoms rather than the symptoms of the patient. I cannot think of a better place to practice these skills than Pacific Northwest University.

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Aaron Nott

Osteopathic Medical Student - 2nd year (OMS II)
College of Osteopathic Medicine
Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences