Naval doctor strives to empower women and aid service members

Naval doctor strives to empower women and aid service members

Oluwapelumi Oluwo, Naval doctor

Naval doctor strives to empower women and aid service members

Oluwapelumi Oluwo, a 28-year-old from Dumfries, Virginia, applied to the Navy and medical school simultaneously. She was accepted into the Navy during her second semester at the Rowan-Virtua School of Osteopathic Medicine in the Virtua Health College of Medicine & Life Sciences and sworn in during January 2021.

Oluwo called her military training “one of the best experiences of my life.”

The camaraderie Oluwo and her fellow Naval recruits forged through their training “gave me a sense of pride in serving my country and serving the service members of our country,” she said.

In military medicine, Oluwo said, “Our main focus is making sure the people who fight the wars and their families are A-OK.”  

Guided by a sense of belonging

“When the kids were playing together and someone fell and hurt their knee, I would be the kid who was rushing to make sure they were okay,” she remembers. “There wasn't ever a doubt that I wanted to go to medical school.”

When she interviewed for the D.O. program at Rowan-Virtua School of Osteopathic Medicine, Oluwo said, “I just felt a sense of belonging.” 

Before coming to Rowan-Virtua SOM, Oluwo attended high school in Nigeria and studied biomedical science and community health at George Mason University.

Friends, family and faith

Oluwo’s friends, family and faith have sustained her through the challenges of medical school.

“Starting something new in a place where you don’t know anyone is challenging,” Oluwo said. “But once I found my friend group, that really changed the game for me.” 

Oluwo’s parents, too, were always there for her. When she called her mother on the phone, crying due to the stress of studying for licensing exams, her parents made the three-plus hour drive from Virginia.

“They brought food, encouraged me and prayed with me, and it was like a mini revival of my soul,” Oluwo said. “I was ready to go back into the world to fight.”

Faith is very important to Oluwo.

“One of the things that grounded me during my medical school journey was knowing always that I had God by my side,” she said. “Eighty percent of where I am today is because of God, and the other 20 percent was the little work I’ve put in to get here.”

Hard work and service

Anyone else would say there’s nothing “little” about the work Oluwo has put into medical school.

“Oluwapelumi has an incredible work ethic,” said Millicent Channell, D.O., senior associate dean for academic affairs and student services at Rowan-Virtua SOM. To Channell, Oluwo’s Navy enlistment is only one of the characteristics that make her exceptional.

“Oluwapelumi’s volunteer work with the underserved shows she has a generous spirit,” Channell said. “I expect her to be a servant leader, because that's the way she's lived her life as a student: in service of others, without fanfare or wanting credit.”

Oluwo’s service at Rowan-Virtua SOM has included volunteering at the Community Health Clinic and COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic and holding leadership roles with the Rowan-Virtua SOM chapter of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA).

A career in empowering women

Oluwo is heading to the Naval Medical Center San Diego for an OB/GYN residency.

On her first day on the labor and delivery floor during her OB/GYN rotation, as the resident walked her through delivering a baby, Oluwo “had the same sense of belonging that I had when I did my interview at Rowan. This is where I want to be.”

For Oluwo, OB/GYN medicine is about more than diagnosing symptoms and treating ailments.

“I love that I have the opportunity to empower women through their journeys,” she said.

Every spring, Rowan University highlights one graduating student from each school and college. Read more stories about this year’s featured graduates.