Point Scholar Dan O'Neill | Dr. Bill Owen
Hearing Dr. Owen's stories of what it was like to live as a gay man in the 1980s and 1990s and treating AIDS patients is a rare and inspiring experience for me, and it will certainly shape the physician I hope to become in the future. His words also underscore the importance of sharing our history with the next generation of LGBT Americans. As a third-year med student, who is attending the George Washington University School of Medicine and is aspiring to become a primary care physician that specializes in HIV and LGBT health, life can be quite challenging navigating clinical clerkships and preparing to apply for residency programs. As such, I found Point's Mentoring Program to be one of the most attractive aspects of the scholarship award, when I decided to apply over a year ago, in hopes of finding an esteemed and experienced LGBT role model to advise me during this pivotal time in my career. This past summer I was delighted to learn my mentor would be Dr. Bill Owen. He and I have since formed a friendship that has already proven invaluable in charting my future career trajectory.
Although we live on opposite sides of the country, Dr. Owen and I have had many fruitful discussions over the phone regarding my service project on the history of HIV/AIDS in America. For my project, I am creating an exhibit that will inform the next generation of LGBT Americans and the general public of the challenges our community overcame and the tragedies we endured in the face of AIDS. To help realize my project's vision, I formed a partnership with the Velvet Foundation, which is an organization with the mission of building a national LGBT history museum. After reviewing my project with me, Dr. Owen connected me with his colleagues who have made valuable contributions to help with my project. For example, they are lending an original red armband, a prototype of the first AIDS awareness ribbon, as well as numerous photos and newspaper clippings detailing the Bay Area Physicians for Human Rights (BAPHR) development and the controversy surrounding the sixth International AIDS Conference in San Francisco, in 1990.
Because LGBT Americans still face tremendous health disparities, fostering such relationships between experienced and future LGBT health providers is a critical piece of ensuring a healthier future for our community. I am confident that with Dr. Owen as my mentor, I will have many opportunities to accelerate and focus my career that I would not have had otherwise.
Dr. Bill Owen
Point generally likes to pair mentors with Point Scholars who are in the same geographic area. However, my pairing was a bit different because my scholar lives and attends medical school in Washington, D.C. while I live in San Francisco. The reason Point approved a long-distance mentorship is that Dan O'Neill indicated that he is strongly considering doing a residency in the San Francisco Bay Area. Because of the nearly 3,000 miles separating us, Dan and I have "met" several times since autumn 2011 via both conference calls and e-mail exchanges. I have had an opportunity to comment on his Community Service Project (CSP) as it evolved.
I finally had the opportunity to meet Dan in person at Point's Regional Leadership Forum (RLF) that was held at the Transgender Law Center in San Francisco on Saturday, March, 3, 2012. I was very impressed at the enthusiasm of all of the young present and past Point Scholars who attended, including gay men, lesbians and transgender people. Shortly after introducing ourselves, we all went out to a local Thai eatery near the Powell Street cable car hub and had a wonderful time hearing about what people were doing in their careers and in their lives. I was amazed that Dan was not the only medical student to attend the RLF. There were at least three other medical students, all from Northern California, and an RN who is studying to be a nurse practitioner.
Seeing this group of charismatic and focused young scholars made me feel confident that the leadership of our next generation of LGBT people is in good hands. In this day and age, when it is "OK to be gay", I think that the concept of mentoring, that through small groups like AMSA-GPIM, BAPHR, and GLMA, helped me and many other LGBT students and physicians to feel less isolated and to harness our energies to help our community, still is a necessary and vital tool to help our sisters and brothers in the early stage of their careers as healers. I feel honored to have been asked, through Point's Mentoring Program, to contribute some of the values passed down to me by my own gay mentors to the shining stars of our next generation of LGBT leaders.