Interview with Dr. Rodney Omron
From The ODA Blog
Category: Q and A
Open Door America interview with Dr. Rodney Omron, Associate Program Director and Associate Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD, September 9, 2014.
ODA: Dr. Omron, please tell our readers about your two roles in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital -- Associate Program Director and Associate Professor.
RO: My time is divided between caring for patients in the East Baltimore Johns Hopkins’ emergency department and training future emergency doctors.
ODA: How has your work in an inner city E.R. of a major American city influenced your thinking about life and humanity? What has your experience in Baltimore taught you about the lives of the poor and disenfranchised?
RO: I have always wondered why people leave the country to serve humanity when there is so much need all around. I see the physical consequences of drug abuse, violence, poor eating habits and emotional abuse. I often feel like I bear witness to the sins that others create. I believe that every soul has worth and every day on earth is a gift from God. We are placed on earth to serve, and, who better to serve than a population in such need. It is a great opportunity to truly make a difference.
ODA: Rodney, with all of your responsibilities as a doctor, professor, husband and father, you joined the Board of Directors of Open Door America in 2013. How does a busy guy like yourself find the time and energy for one more thing in your life? What was it about ODA that drew you in and keeps you engaged on such a committed level?
RO: My time is indeed very precious though I feel like Open Door America is an extension of what I want to do by being an emergency doctor in a busy inner city emergency department. It is well worth my time. For every job we create at ODA, it’s at least one less gun-violence victim and potentially a whole family of fewer victims.
ODA: In the board room, you have a reputation for being one of those leaders who listens to others before you speak. Yet, you are seen as one of ODA’s strongest voices for proactive and inventive initiatives. Where does this leadership style come from, and more importantly, how might a slow-to-speak but get-it-done approach benefit our leaders as they struggle to address intergenerational poverty? In other words, what is missing from our nation’s decision-making model and agenda when it comes to the people you see in the E.R.?
RO: There is a prayer by Saint Francis that is about listening rather than talking … it speaks to me. I feel you gain much more by listening than speaking and ultimately learn much more. I have been in many situations throughout my life that have pushed me outside of my comfort zone. Often, it is important to really hear what people say to truly understand them prior to sharing your insights. There is a time, however, when after you have listened, you have to act or your knowledge is wasted.
ODA: Our readers would be interested in learning about your upbringing, your training, and your overall preparation for a life in medicine. What events in your personal journey have been critical to your development as an emergency room doctor?
RO: I was raised by Catholic immigrant parents to whom I was very close. They died while I was in medical school. My mother died of a long drawn-out battle with cancer during which she held on for one more day. She always said life is beautiful and a gift from God. She also said that people can be mean and that life is also about suffering but it doesn’t detract at all from its gift. After my parents died and I graduated from medical school, I went with the Marines as their doctor into the most recent war in Iraq. It was an incredible experience and I was surrounded by great leaders. Many of the lessons that make be successful today were taught to me there.
ODA: Tell us about your family and outside interests. Is there a connection between your personal life and the mission of ODA? Do you see your children in the children and families you serve at Johns Hopkins?
RO: My wife is a pediatrician and I have two children who fill my sail every day. I feel it’s important to teach my kids how to serve their fellow man and treat every soul as having worth. I always want to treat every patient I see as though they are a family member -- that is the bar to which I strive.
ODA: Now a year on the board, where do you see ODA 5 years from now? What excites you the most about the organization and its work?
RO: This model is so unique that if it is adopted on a larger scale, it will be a national game-changer. I feel like Open Door America has a lot of growth ahead. We have highly engaged partners and a really strong business model. I look forward to seeing it grow nationally.
ODA: Rodney, as we close this interview, is there an issue that hasn’t been raised that you would like to address? Perhaps something you would like to communicate to your medical peers or to the city as a whole?
RO: If you want to help with medical disease in East Baltimore, the violence and drug abuse needs to be addressed. If it is addressed, we will see healthier people and families. I look forward to a future Baltimore where hardworking people are not judged by their past, but given a second chance to achieve “living wages” and a better future for themselves and their families.
Open Door Baltimore, a nonprofit that fights poverty by working with businesses to provide living-wage jobs, is expanding beyond the beltway. To better reflect the organization’s larger mission, the board of directors recently approved a new identity and logo.Read More