March Member Spotlight | Cheyn Onarecker, MD
Where are you currently working or attending school?
I am the Program Director of the St. Anthony Family Medicine Residency in Oklahoma City.
How long have you been within the OAFP community?
Since the summer of 1991.
Why did you choose family medicine? What has been the most fulfilling moment of your career or education?
First, family medicine allowed me the most opportunities of any specialty. I knew I could work almost anywhere in the world doing almost anything I wanted to do. For the past 30 years, I have kept a list of all the positions that have been filled by family physicians – public health officials, professional and collegiate team physicians, NASA flight surgeons, cruise ship physicians, wilderness docs, special ops military docs, small town do-everything superdocs, missionary medicine, university deans and department chairs, boutique and other sorts of direct care physicians. You name it, we get to do it. Second, family medicine gives me the chance to interact with patients of all ages in a way that no other specialty can.
I suppose, if I have to pick my most fulfilling moment, it occurs every year at the end of June when I get to celebrate the accomplishments of the graduates from our residency. What a feeling! To know where they have come from and how far they have come. To see them take on the mantle of a fully-trained family physician. To know that I have had a part in helping them fulfill one of their greatest wishes.
What has been the most challenging aspect of your practice or education?
The relentless increase in bureaucratic obstacles to patient care.
What is your work life balance like & how do you achieve it?
The only way I know of maintaining appropriate life balance is to have close friends and mentors who understand the medical professional life who will hold you accountable for how you spend your time. Spouses can definitely fulfill this role, and it is crucial to re-visit this topic on a regular basis with them. It is helpful to appreciate that balance is fluid. Life brings changes, and you must adapt to those changes. When you are a medical student or resident, your life revolves around medicine. When you get married, or have your first child, or start your first medical practice, or have to care for a sick parent, your life will be altered dramatically. What was balanced before may seem unbalanced when those changes come. You will need to constantly re-balance your life. Also, you must remember that your personal health is crucial to your success. If you are not healthy, every other part of your life suffers. Health is more than just physical. Emotional and spiritual health is just as important and not to be neglected.
Who is your biggest role model?
My mother has been the greatest inspiration for me throughout my life.
What is your favorite quote?
I think my favorite quote changes from time to time. This is one that has been a favorite for a long time. From C.S. Lewis – “We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the gelding be fruitful.” Translation – we insist that there is no such thing as a virtuous life, that all decisions about right and wrong are relative, and then we are surprised to find that people do not make virtuous choices.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I enjoy traveling and spending time with my wife. I love to read, listen to music, exercise, and hang out with family (my mom, three siblings, six children, and nine grandchildren) and friends.
Any advice for residents and students finishing their training or education?
First, hold on to the vision that first drew you into medicine. For me, I always felt that my motivation to be a physician came from God. To be a healer was to follow the example of Christ, to enter into the lives of others to make a positive difference in their lives. Whenever times got hard, and I wanted to quit, I was rejuvenated by remembering why I started this journey in the first place. Second, don’t be fooled by the allure of money. As a physician, you will face the temptation of going for the job that pays the most or working extra hours to buy the biggest house or the nicest car. Be careful. A wise man once wrote that “People who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge then into ruin and destruction.”