Future doctors from SH ready for residencies: Sarah Crowe May opted to go to medical school after trying chemical engineering

Audrey Caro

Sarah Crowe May wanted to go to medical school when she was an undergraduate studying bio-engineering at Oregon State University, but something held her back.

“I basically didn’t think I was smart enough to go to medical school, which you find with all medical school students and doctors,” May said. “Even if they pretend like they think that they’re smarter than everyone, they still worry about not being smart enough.”

She was working as a chemical process engineer at Pacific Cast Technologies (now ATI) in Albany, when she read the book “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell.

“The premise is that some people are born with the ability but then after that, it’s effort,” May said. “To play in the NBA, you have to be at least 6 foot, whatever, but just because you’re that tall doesn’t mean you’re going to make it.”

It takes effort to make that happen, she said.

“I realized that the only thing that was stopping me from going to medical school was me,” May said. “No one had told me I wasn’t smart enough.”

About a year and half later, in 2013, May started attending the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific-Northwest in Lebanon.

Earlier this year, May learned that she has been matched into family medicine (see accompanying story) and will spend the next three years at Skagit Region Health, in Washington.

John Dew, who used to practice in Sweet Home, specializes in family medicine at the Skagit facility.

“It’s going to be a really great program,” May said. “They have great (Osteopathic Manipulative Therapy) and that’s what’s unique to D.O.s over M.D.s.”

The program May matched into has training in OMT manipulative practice, which involves using the hands to diagnose, treat, and prevent illness or injury.

“I really like that and I want to incorporate that into my practice,” May said.

She likes to take the whole-person approach, she said.

It relates to her background in bio-engineering and process engineering, in that it involves looking at the entire process and figuring out the root cause analysis.

“I really like the opportunity to treat patients without medications,” May said. “I like the OMT aspect of it a lot. I think that we might not be able to describe all of it perfectly because we don’t have all the research yet, but I’ve seen it work. I’ve felt it work. I’ve made it work.”

May was in a car crash a couple of months ago and could feel muscle spasms in her back.

She didn’t take any muscle relaxers or medication, with the exception of Aleve.

Instead, she got a couple of treatments from classmates who are doing an extra year in school so they can do fellowships in OMT.

She is thankful for being able to turn to other students.

“There have been times when I’ve been hurting and I literally have walked through the school and found someone (to help),” May said. “When you do a lot of driving or a lot of sitting at a desk, it’s bound to happen where you just hurt. So it’s nice to have people who can just treat you without any kind of medications.”

When she starts her own practice, May would like to be part of a medical home model, where different professions are available to patients, in-house.

That could include mental health and family medicine.

“I’d love to have OB-GYN and some kind of wellness, and I wouldn’t mind a spiritual person,” May said. “They could represent a specific faith or not represent a specific faith but just be someone who would be able to talk on the spiritual level with patients because that’s part of osteopathic medicine as well. People’s faith can drive so much of their well-being.”

When she and her now-husband, Alan May, started dating, they knew she might not be able to control where she does her residency.

He and their children, Haley, a sophomore in high school, and Christopher, a junior high student, will stay in Sweet Home while she completes her three years in Washington.

It’s a 5½-hour drive, she said.

“Three years, that’s kind of stinky but we’ll make it work,” Sarah May said.

May would like to practice medicine in Sweet Home.

“I was planning to practice somewhere in rural Oregon, but then I happened to fall in love with a man who grew up here,” May said.