Owita Mays started her health care career as a nurse on the medical-surgical unit at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Medical Center. Thirteen years later, she started medical school. A conversation with one of the physicians she worked with at the EpiCare Center (a division of Semmes-Murphey Clinic at the time) sparked her interest in becoming a physician.
“I was at a stage in life where I was contemplating the next step in my career,” said Dr. Mays. “And one day, a doctor asked, ‘Have you ever thought about going to medical school?’ It was as if a light came on in my head. I began to think about it and the more I thought about it, the more I was driven to the potential of becoming a physician. I thought to myself, you can do this.”
And that’s exactly what she did. She sold her house and spent the next four years in medical school at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in Memphis, Tenn. She continued her training as a resident in internal medicine for the next three years.
Choosing to focus on internal medicine was an easy decision for Dr. Mays.
“I had already taken care of so many patients who were suffering from the long-term complications of uncontrolled hypertension and diabetes that it just seemed logical to become an internist,” said Dr. Mays. “For the most part, these are modifiable conditions, and changes in lifestyle can play a huge role in improving these conditions and overall outcomes. I thought I could be of service to the community by trying to educate patients and change their mindset regarding how we can manage their health.”
Dr. Mays has made a difference in her patients’ lives by helping them see the long-term consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle. She stresses the importance of managing chronic diseases, along with obesity, that initially may not be problematic, but could lead to future heath problems, such as stroke, peripheral vascular disease or cardiovascular disease.
While Dr. Mays recognizes the importance of long-term health, she understands that patients may be too consumed by other issues to make their health a priority or to consider how the decisions they make today will affect them tomorrow. But that’s a challenge she’s willing to overcome.
“As physicians, we want the patients to take their medications and do what we recommend,” said Dr. Mays. “I find out that many times patients have so many other issues going on—socially, economically, family setting issues—that really prohibit them from focusing on their health.”
So rather than focus on these obstacles, Dr. Mays identifies other ways to reach her patients and partner with them for better health.
“I’m more concerned about their collaboration, and you need the patients’ involvement in trying to take care of them so that they will have the best outcomes,” said Dr. Mays.
Dr. Mays practices internal medicine at Baptist Medical Group-Collierville Internal Medicine.