As a child, Central Michigan University medical student Olivia Bolen watched her mother deal with illness.
This and the experience of growing up in a small community with only one doctor triggered the third-year medical student to dedicate her life to bringing high-quality health care to rural and underserved communities.
"When I was growing up, my mom had some heath issues," Bolen explained. "Being a little kid and seeing the person who's always taken care of you be sick was really hard for me. I just wanted to help her. That's when it dawned on me that I can help other people who are feeling the same thing."
This passion also has led to Bolen's selection to serve as the voice of all Michigan medical students who are passionate about family medicine. As the only student on the
Michigan Academy of Family Physicians board of directors, she tackles each opportunity with the desire to make an impact on the future of family medicine.
Making an impact in Michigan and beyond
Bolen's love for the art of medicine has been solidified by CMU's new medical program, which she touts as innovative in the way they teach and promote team-based learning. The acquired skills and opportunities provide her a unique prospective to make strides for medical students across the state of Michigan.
She was raised in East Tawas, Michigan, and saw only one doctor her entire life. This developed her belief that providing quality health care for patients is having a deeper relationship with them.
This is what led her to Central's College of Medicine after completing her undergraduate degree in biomedical sciences at Western Michigan University in 2014.
"The drive to have primary care physicians come back to areas in such great need, caring for thousands of patients who are underserved throughout our state, that really spoke to me," Bolen said. "I fell in love with the mission."
Medicine is ever evolving but Bolen's dream of family medicine never changed. She began getting involved in different interest groups at CMU and attending clinical workshops. By the end of her first year in CMU's program, Bolen was leading the family medicine interest group.
She learned about the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians and applied for a board of directors position — a position she admitted to being underqualified for, yet she saw as an opportunity for a challenge. Seeing her ambition, the organization directed her to get involved with one of its committees.
Bolen joined the communications and membership committee and received many leadership opportunities. She took advantage of them all and consequently was selected as the only student to serve on MAFP's board of directors.
"Students are the future of family medicine, so they really care about what other students are saying about certain issues and bills that are being passed," she explained. "I speak for medical students in Michigan who are passionate about family medicine. I'm their representative."
In her role, Bolen spends time reaching out to all members of the academy, corresponding via email and guest speaking at events such as the Future of Family Medicine Conference at Wayne State University. She urges others to get involved and meets with other medical students to engage and inform them about family medicine in Michigan.
Bolen also holds a leadership position with the
American Academy of Family Physicians. She helps to oversee other regional universities' family medicine interest groups. This includes providing updates about the field, facilitating communication between universities and the national organizations, and coordinating local events with other leaders.
Bolen currently is completing rotations at
Covenant HealthCare in Saginaw. In just a six-month period, she and fellow third-year students will cover rotations in surgery, internal medicine, pediatrics, hematology and oncology, psychology, and obstetrics and gynecology.
Once she finishes rotations, Bolen will head home to East Tawas, where she is excited to start working in a family medicine practice, Huron Family Medicine, for six months.
"I'm hoping that I get some exposure to pediatrics while I'm there and a lot of relationship building," she said. "With our one-month rotations it's really hard to get to know patients, so I'm excited to have an extended period where I can get to know them and reinforce why I love family medicine so much."
The vision for Bolen's future is still being molded by the art of medicine, and caring for populations in need is how she plans to leave her mark.