Dr. Winters:

Toward the end of my third year of medical school, I turned 25.

That’s significant because, prior to the Affordable Care Act, turning 25 meant I was going to be off my parents’ insurance. Insurance is really critical for me, because I’ve also been diabetic since I was 17.

The way that Ohio University’s medical student health insurance was set up at the time, I would have had to pay for all the care that I received for my diabetes out of pocket for a full year before I was eligible for coverage. There was no way I could afford that as a medical student, and I’d be out of school before I would qualify anyway.

My mother’s job with the city of Detroit allowed her to keep me on her coverage for that year, but it came at a high cost: roughly $600 a month. My mother actually took on a third job hoping to be able to cover the expense - a testament to the amazing woman she is.

When I applied for the American Osteopathic Foundation’s William G Anderson, DO Minority Scholarship, I wrote about my struggle to afford the healthcare I needed while I was studying to become an Osteopathic physician so I could provide healthcare to others.

And when I was privileged to receive the scholarship in 2005, the funds were enough to cover 10 months of that very necessary last year of my health insurance.

If it wasn’t for the AOF scholarship I received, I don’t know how I would have been able to continue and finish medical school.

AOF: And you’ve come a long way since then. What does your current practice look like?

Dr. Winters:

I graduated from Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine class of 2007.

I went on to do my Categorical Pediatrics Residency at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. And today, I serve as the Program Director for the Pediatric Residency Program at Goreyb Children’s Hospital in Morristown, NJ. I’m also the President Elect for the American College of Osteopathic Pediatricians. I serve on the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education Residency Review Committee for Pediatrics and its DEI Advisory Committee. And I also sit on the board for the Association of Pediatric Program Directors.

I’ve continued my relationship with the American Osteopathic Foundation, too. Any time there has been anything I can contribute, whether it’s speaking on behalf of the AOF, being able to mentor new Osteopathic physicians, or provide financial support. I’m grateful to be able to give back in a variety of ways.

AOF: Why do you think it’s important for students or residents to connect with organizations like the American Osteopathic Foundation?

Dr. Winters:

I have this conversation with a lot of my learners. The residency program that I oversee is roughly half Osteopathic physicians, and I always advocate for their involvement, particularly individuals from marginalized communities.

I tell them: If you do not have a seat at the table - if you’re not involved in having your voice heard, then policies, procedures, rules, and regulations will continue to be implemented – by someone else. Things will happen whether you’re sitting at that table or not.

You have to make sure that your voice is being heard.

Your presence, or absence, defines the future of our profession. It determines the rules and regulations that impact how our patients will experience Osteopathic medicine. It determines how future DOs will perceive their own potential.

It’s hugely important that we all have a voice.

What drew you to Pediatrics, and specifically to working in Pediatrics as an Osteopathic physician?

Dr. Winters:

That’s a really great question.

Pediatrics came first. I had a phenomenal pediatrician growing up. She was a Black woman, and just an essential part of our family, if that makes sense - at least that’s how I saw her from my perspective as a child. She was my first experience of how much a good physician can really change the way that a family is able to function.

I graduated medical school almost exactly 50 years to the day after she did.

Osteopathic medicine, however, was something I was introduced to by the DO who diagnosed me with diabetes. I, like most children, was kind of “revolting” against my father. And by “revolting,” I mean going to pharmacy school instead of medical school - in my family, everyone is on the track to be a doctor, or an engineer, or a pastor. It was during a conversation with my physician that I found myself saying: “You know what, I don’t want to be a pharmacist. I really want to go to medical school.” And my physician said: “Oh, you’re a physician, I can tell you that. You’re not a pharmacist.”

He recommended Ohio University. At the time, Barbara Ross-Lee, DO was the Dean - we’re all from the Detroit area. I didn’t know much about Osteopathic medicine, but as I looked into it, everything I was reading was just speaking to me. I truly believe that body, mind, and spirit are all connected. I truly believe that we have natural abilities to heal ourselves. The concept of looking for health, not only focusing on disease - it was very clear to me: I want this. I need this.

AOF: As you look back on your career so far, what’s been the most meaningful impact of the support you received from the AOF?

Dr. Winters:

When I think about the big picture, the 30,000-foot view, it’s about being able to see future DO residents and know that they might not have to deal with some of the same stigmas or barriers I faced. I’m not saying things are perfect now by any means - there are still stigmas and barriers. There’s still work to do.

But I’m grateful to have the opportunity to be a voice for so many Osteopathic pediatricians. Being able to be loud, be a mouthpiece, to advocate for decisions that support diversity and benefit those future DOs - that’s what matters most to me.

If I can make their load a little lighter, that’s the legacy I want to leave behind.

The American Osteopathic Foundation seeks to elevate diversity, equity, and inclusion in Osteopathic medicine by continuing to champion essential change-makers like Dr. Winters.

To learn more about how you can engage with the Foundation - as a DO, a grant reviewer, a mentor, or a donor - visit aof.org .

Together, we can continue to elevate Osteopathic medicine and the dedicated DOs who provide it.