OSU-CHS and Martin family have long, impactful history – Oklahoma State University

Friday, July 22, 2022

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Most of us will never know what kind of legacy we have created, but that’s something
Dr. Ronnie Martin doesn’t have to wonder about.

Martin graduated from Oklahoma College of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery in 1979,
a member of the third graduating class of the new osteopathic medical school in Tulsa,
established in 1972.

His daughters Natasha Bray and Amanda Martin went on to graduate from the same medical
school, which became Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine in
1988. His son, Shawn, worked at the school during the transition from OCOMS to OSU-COM
and has since gone on to work in health care policy and advocacy for more than 25
years.

 

Dedication takes root

Before attending medical school, Martin served in the U.S. Army and later graduated
from the pharmacy program at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. He worked at
an osteopathic hospital in Enid, Okla. where he got to know several of the physicians
who wrote him letters of recommendation when he applied to OCOMS.

As a medical student Martin was involved in student government, clubs and organizations.

“I had a great time in medical school, I truly did,” he said. “It was an opportunity
to reach out and be involved with the students and faculty and administration. It
was hard work, but it was very enjoyable, very rewarding and I enjoyed it a great
deal.”

After graduation, Martin practiced family medicine in Enid for about 20 years, but
he was still connected to his alma mater serving as alumni president, and then on
the advisory board during the merger with OSU and the school’s transition to OSU-COM.
He has served on the OSU Foundation board and chaired a capital campaign for the medical
school. He was also very involved with the Oklahoma Osteopathic Association serving
on the board for several decades including as board president.

While practicing, Martin said he had many medical students and residents train and
work with him in his clinic, and he enjoyed the instructional and teaching aspect
of his job.

He resolved to practice medicine for 15 to 20 years and then go back and teach from
the perspective of someone who had the life experience of a rural family physician.

“I said, ‘I want to do that while I’m still skilled and knowledgeable, while I still
have a passion and an energy for the practice of medicine because I don’t want anybody
teaching that’s burned out.’  You want to inspire passion and you want to inspire a commitment to the practice of
medicine in students.”

At his side during the years he practiced family medicine was his wife, Sherri. She
managed the business side of his practice.

Ronnie Martin
Dr. Ronnie Martin as a medical student at Oklahoma College of Osteopathic Medicine
and Surgery in 1978.

“My wife was not only involved in running my practice, but she is better at what she
does than I will ever be at what I do. She’s an outstanding individual, very intelligent,
very business-savvy and very engaged. She’s also greatly committed to this profession
and OSU,” he said, including serving on state and national auxiliary boards and being
involved with student programs and student auxiliary while he attended medical school.

After his youngest child graduated high school, Martin decided it was time to teach,
so he sold his practice and moved to Tulsa and taught  in a clinical setting. He then moved to Iowa to serve as chairman of the department
of family medicine at Des Moines University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, which
began his 20-year career in academic medicine.

Martin, now semi-retired, lives in Muldrow, Okla., where he still practices medicine
“once in a while” because he’s always striving to give back and contribute.

“I always say I can never pay back the osteopathic profession and the college for
what they gave to me— the ability to raise my family, the ability to practice medicine
and help other people,” he said. “When you know you can’t pay all that back, to me
it gives you a commitment to spend your life trying. You’re never going to get to
that point, but you should continue to try and contribute and advance it. I’m extremely
appreciative to OSU and I’ve tried very hard to support them.”

 

Familiar footsteps

Dr. Natasha Bray, the second of Martin’s three children, was born at the Oklahoma
Osteopathic Hospital, now OSU Medical Center, while her father was a first-year medical
student.

Bray said she grew up in doctors’ offices, first spending time as a child in her father’s
practice in Enid and then working there starting at 13 years old.

“He ran Saturday morning clinics, so I started working at his front desk and did some
billing and coding. I worked my summers there when I was going to school,” she said,
so no one was very surprised when she decided to go into medicine and attend OSU-COM.

In fact, her wedding reception was the first event in Founders Hall when it opened
in 1997.

“OSU has always been part of our family and important to us because that’s where my
dad went to medical school,” said Bray, who also went into primary care like her father.
“I love patient care. It’s an opportunity to influence the lives of patients and engage
them. I love hearing people’s stories and their experiences. There are very few things
where we can actually, tangibly say we made a difference in people’s lives.”

After graduating, Bray moved to the East Coast for an internship and internal medicine
training before taking a clinical teaching position at the Dr. Kiran C. Patel College
of Osteopathic Medicine at Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

“Within six months of working at the medical school I fell in love with it. I loved
working with residents, I loved working with students, I loved being in the classroom
in the mentoring role. That’s where I’ve been ever since,” she said.

Bray moved back to Oklahoma in 2015 and returned to work at OSU-COM in 2017.

“There has been so much growth. It is just absolutely amazing to see the growth at
OSU. It went from a college of osteopathic medicine to a health sciences center,”
she said. “The campus has fundamentally transformed. The Tandy building opened around
the time I came back.”

Bray has been instrumental to that growth overseeing the accreditation to open the
new medical school site in Tahlequah, the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at the
Cherokee Nation. She’s also been a vital part of the leadership at that campus serving
as associate dean for Academic Affairs and now interim dean.

“It’s amazing and fun to be a part of this. I’m from Oklahoma, my husband is Cherokee,
my kids are Cherokee. So, to be part of something that you know is going to fundamentally
change health care in rural Oklahoma, but also the trajectories and the opportunities
for children who grow up in these communities is just amazing.”

Bray’s older brother, Shawn Martin, said at one point he and his sisters had all moved
away from home so the fact that Bray found her way back to rural Oklahoma is fascinating.

“I’m very happy for her and love the engagement with the Cherokee Nation. I  think it’s interesting that someone in our family has circled back and is engaging
in the health care of Oklahoma,” he said.

Ronnie Martin said he wasn’t surprised his daughter went into primary care and then
academics— much like he did.

“I thought about a multitude of specialties, but family medicine fits my personality.
I like the personal relationships with my patients and I like the variety and diversity
of the work. She’s very similar to that. She looked at a lot of subspecialties and
could have done them, but she chose a path of general and internal medicine that would
give her the opportunity to teach and be involved in a diversity of not only patients,
but also students and other individuals,” he said. “She’s my daughter, so obviously
I’m bragging, but she is one of the most intelligent, organized and committed people
I know.”

 

The unexpected surgeon 

Surprise is a word used frequently to describe the career path of Dr. Amanda Martin,
the youngest in the Martin family.

“Amanda is fluent in four or five languages and spent time studying in Paris. She
was just a lot more diverse in her interests growing up,” Bray said. “I think everyone
was more surprised she ended up going into medicine.”

Even her father, who encouraged her to look at a profession as a physician, was surprised
she actually went that route.

“Amanda surprised me. She was always more of an arts individual. I would have guessed
she would go into law because she was very much into theater and the arts,” said Ronnie
Martin. “She has a minor in French, but she found a profession she likes a great deal.”

Amanda is now an orthopedic surgeon living in Nashville and working at Elite Sports
Medicine and Orthopedics.

“I quite honestly wanted a career in  civil service and working through the embassy corp and possibly living in Northern
Africa or in Eastern Europe because I speak Spanish, English, French, and some of
the Arabic African-based languages,” she said. “I had a predilection for languages
and communicating with people.”

After talking with her family, specifically her parents, Amanda said she saw how medicine
would allow her to utilize those language and communication skills in a different
way that still helped people.

“While I wasn’t crazy about the idea of being tied to home studying, an argument was
made that once I finished medical school, the day-to-day would be aligned to what
I really wanted to do, which was taking care of people and saving the world,” she
said. “That’s the argument that was made when I was trying to decide what I really
wanted to do, and it was a good one.”

Through her work as an orthopedic surgeon at Elite Sports Medicine and Orthopedics,
Amanda  also got involved with Major League Soccer in 2013 where she could utilize her multilingual
skills.

“It’s something people don’t really know, but within Major League Soccer we have 100
countries represented and multiple languages. I have been able to help, not only with
our entrance physicals, but in translating things in other languages like medical
records and information,” she said. “It launched me into U.S. Soccer as well and I
travel nationally and internationally with our national team programs. So, I sort
of found my way around the world through soccer, which I never would have gotten into
without being an orthopedic surgeon.”

Fixing problems and helping people is what Amanda loves to do so pursuing a career
in orthopedic surgery made sense to her.

“I love our physicians that are willing to treat and manage disease for life, but
for my personality and attention span, I was drawn to a specialty where there’s a
tangible problem that can be fixed,” she said. “That’s how I view surgery— it’s problem
solving. There’s an end to it and people get well. I don’t care how broken something
is, as long as we can put it back together.”

Getting to that point of knowing herself and what she wanted her life to be wasn’t
an easy journey for her, especially at OSU-COM where she was following the legacy
left by her father and sister.

Amanda Martin
Dr. Amanda Martin, US Soccer team physician, following a game between the US Women’s
National Team and the Uzbekistan women’s team.

 “It was an interesting time of my life, I turned 21 in medical school. I was so young
and following right after Natasha and sort of being known by everyone. It was an interesting
time for me because I feel like I was just figuring out who I was at that time,” she
said.

Amanda said she felt a lot of pressure, not placed on her by her family but by herself.
One of her mentors in medical school, Dr. Thomas W. Allen who was the dean of OSU-COM
at the time, helped her work through that pressure to find her passion for medicine.

“Dr. Allen sat me down one day and said ‘I really like that you speak all these languages,
and you communicate with people on a personal level. Those are really great skills
for a doctor to have, I think you’re going to be a really great doctor. Stop trying
to be anybody else and just be you.’ It was a really freeing thing and to this day
I’m immeasurably grateful to him for seeing I was more worried about being a Martin
and he was more worried about me figuring out how to be Amanda. I’ve always been very
grateful for that,” she said.

“Once I hit my groove and figured myself out, everything changed and everything got
easy. That path was just made straight.”

 

Politics of health care

Shawn Martin has spent more than 25 years working in the health care field, but unlike
his father and sisters, it isn’t as a physician.

He earned a bachelor’s in Business Administration from Phillips University in Enid
and then a master’s in Health Care Delivery Science from Dartmouth College.

Shawn said he never wanted to become a doctor. “It was never of interest to me, which
sounds weird given my family. I guess I’m the outlier.”

After four years at OSU-CHS in the Office of External Affairs, Shawn moved to Washington
D.C., and started working in health care policy and advocacy.

“In my late 20s I became very interested and invested in public policy, and particularly
health care policy and economic policy around health care. My career took a sharp
turn and I became much more engaged on a day-to-day professional basis with the nuts
and bolts of health care policy,” he said.

Shawn worked at the American Osteopathic Association for 14 years in a variety of
positions including serving as director of government relations and health policy,
and director of socioeconomic affairs.

For eight years he served as senior vice president over advocacy, practice advancement
and policy at the American Academy of Family Physicians, and in 2020 was named executive
vice president and CEO.

“AAFP is a huge organization, we represent about 128,000 family physicians and medical
students. We have a member in 98 percent of U.S. counties. There’s not a group of
people who are more connected with Americans in their neighborhoods or in their communities,”
he said. “We’re very much in the business of trying to facilitate continuity of care
between primary care physicians and patients in the community. How do we create public
policy that facilitates that care, but also make it affordable and accessible for
all Americans? I think at the end of the day, we are charged by our members to create
the environment that allows them to take care of patients.”

Ronnie Martin couldn’t be prouder of the impact his son has had on medicine and health
care in the country.

“The thing I always say about Shawn is he’s a good manager, but he’s an outstanding
leader, and there’s a big difference between the two. Management is doing things right,
leadership is doing the right thing and having vision and insight. And Shawn is an
outstanding leader in the medical profession,” he said. “He’s got a great heart for
compassion and for individuals to provide access to health care. He very much believes
that primary care is the key to quality health care. He’s simply outstanding. He’s
a national leader and recognized as such.”

 

A family legacy

“We all feel very blessed. OSU gave us the opportunities that we needed to be successful
at the right point and the right time in our life,” Bray said. “And while everyone
took different paths, we share that bond and we’re very thankful for it.”

Ronnie Martin said OSU-COM’s evolution and growth is amazing as is the impact it’s
having on the health and lives of Oklahomans.

“I’ve been back on campus, and what leadership has done is phenomenal. I started downtown
in a warehouse next to the plasma center and when we moved into the new building we
thought that was the greatest thing in the world and it’s changed significantly since
then,” he said.

Ronnie Martin and his work with OSU and health education, as well as his children’s
careers in medicine and health care, are also part of that success. But don’t call
it the family business.

“Medicine is the family heritage, it’s the passion. I don’t know about family business
because I’m sure if you asked my kids, and I know for myself, it wasn’t about the
business, it was about the opportunities, the involvement with people,” he said.

“When you talk about the Martin family and osteopathic medicine, you can’t mention
Ronnie without mentioning Sherri. Their love for their profession emanated from every
nook and cranny of our home. Of course, we have some pride in that,” Amanda said.

Shawn Martin said he doesn’t think too much about his family’s overall collective
footprint on health care, it’s just everyone’s career.

“What I take away is that everyone chose their own path, and everyone’s own path ended
up pointing in a central direction around  health care and providing care and making the system better,” he said. “I think everyone
chose public service in their own way, some through care delivery, some through education
and some through public policy. I think it’s a collective commitment to make the health
care system better for all of us. We all just did it in our own way.”

Martin said he’s proud of his family’s legacy.

“God has blessed me tremendously, but one of the biggest rewards I’m given is when
someone says ‘Natasha or Amanda or Shawn are outstanding, they are really just great
leaders and great contributors, and I didn’t even know they were yours.’ That makes
me extremely happy.”

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