MANSFIELD – When Armika Tatum first heard she’d have to do her two-week general surgery rotation at OhioHealth Mansfield Hospital in 2019, there was some apprehension.
She was living in Columbus as a third-year resident attending classes for Ohio University. Residents are dispersed all over the Ohio area and go through rotations in different hospital systems.
Tatum was assigned to the central Ohio area and has visited many hospitals within the jurisdiction, including Mansfield Hospital in fall 2019 and again in January 2021 for a two-week infectious disease rotation.
The idea of having to drive up and from Columbus every day for two-weeks did not sound appealing for Tatum. However, there was an easy solution.
Mansfield Hospital offers traveling medical students the chance to live in dorm-styled rooms located in the hospital as they complete their two or four-week rotations. Having done several rotations at other hospitals, Tatum was surprised to find that Mansfield Hospital was the only one that could offer her housing.
‘It is very convenient and it's nice that they actually give us an opportunity to stay there, otherwise I would be driving two hours a day.” Tatum said.
Tatum chose family medicine as her focus to be more involved in her patients’ lives. She plans on working in the underserved area and takes a special interest in looking into diabetes prevention and management.
“I like the continuity of care (with family medicine),” Tatum said. “Things like emergency medicine I think are cool, but you don't know what happens afterward. I like the idea of communicating with the patient and seeing their progress over the years.”
“I feel like I have the opportunity to really educate people more about a lot of the chronic conditions that are in underserved areas. So, that's one of the main reasons that I'm also interested in family medicine.”
During her infectious disease rotation, Tatum worked closely with Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Uchenna A Ezike, MD, and Nurse Practitioner Gabriella Domka. As their only student, Tatum received more one-on-one time with her mentors than she would’ve at other teaching hospitals. She helped treat inpatients post-surgery as well as outpatients.
“I really liked the fact that because a lot of students aren't (at Mansfield Hospital) you're not overcrowded,” Tatum said. “There are so many good teachers there. I've only been with them for two positions... but they were all amazing and willing to answer questions.”
Since COVID-19 began, Tatum’s had to adapt to the hospital's protocols and how they handle post operations and outpatient treatments since she cannot see a lot of patients in-person. And though she did not get to treat COVID patients during her latest rotation, she was still able to see up close the brutality of the virus.
“It’s sad when we go round on patients on the actual floor, and sometimes you are looking through a curtain at a patient and see them on a ventilator. It's heartbreaking, it really is. Because of course we hear about all the stories on the news, but to be able to see it up close in person is really disheartening,” Tatum said.
As a child, Tatum was in and out of the hospital due to her asthma, which she was diagnosed with at the young age of three years old. The last time she was hospitalized was her senior year of high school.
“I had a really good pediatrician. She was African American, so I always looked up to her and said, ‘oh man, I want to be a pediatrician,’” Tatum said.
Tatum received support outside of medical practice as well. In both her rotations, Robin Schiffer, manager of the medical office for Mansfield Hospital, helped her stay on track to get the rotations she needed.
“I'm close to graduation, but because of COVID, a lot of places have denied students from coming and (Schiffer’s) like, ‘Well, what do you need? You know, I could probably pair you with this position or that one.’ And it's amazing how many doctors are just willing to accept students,” Tatum said.
OhioHealth offers several residency programs with three different levels of training starting from medical school to residency and then to fellowship (though a fellowship differs based on the specialty).
“Once they get to the point where they can be in the real world and earn a living as a physician or an (advanced practice provider), in some ways, I think they're grateful for all the training and all the experiences they have—that they're ready to go on to the next step and actually take care of their own patients,” Schiffer said.
Schiffer, who’s been working at Shelby and Mansfield Hospital for 35 years, has worked closely with medical students for a long time, but it ramped up for her once Mansfield Hospital became an OhioHealth location. Throughout the year, she sees over 50 medical students and advanced practice providers come in and out for rotation.
“We connect the students with those appropriate positions and they do anywhere from two weeks to four weeks for their rotation,” Schiffer said. “And they have to do certain ones for whatever field they're going into… but some of them are elective too. They have to have so many clinical rotations, but some of them might be completely different from what their intent is as they go through the education process.”
Schiffer sees the medical student program offered at Mansfield Hospital as an opportunity to pave the way for future physicians.
“Our providers are amazing and they love to teach, they love to mentor and they probably look at it that if they had some of these opportunities, it would have been helpful with their training,” Schiffer said. “They just want to help the future physicians and a key piece of our state and our country. So I think it's really beneficial and very helpful to these medical students to have hands-on training. They can learn a lot in a classroom, but a clinical rotation gives them real-world experience.”
Schiffer will continue to see students filter in and out of the program at Mansfield Hospital, and each time she will assist them and guide them toward a successful rotation such as the ones Tatum has gone through.
“(Tatum’s) so excited about her future,” Schiffer said. “Her enthusiasm is infectious and I think that she's going to make an excellent physician and do a great job of taking care of her patients. She has the passion. You can hear it in her voice—you can see it in her face.”
Tatum’s next step is to enter a family medicine residency, and she recently finished doing interviews with a few hospitals. She’ll find out where she’s headed on March 19. In the meanwhile, she’s thrilled with all of the progress she’s made as a future doctor with the help of Mansfield Hospital physicians and associates.
“I've gotten a lot more out of it than I anticipated, and now I kind of wish I would have done the four weeks,” Tatum said.