OUWB Associate Dean shares unique journey on “Dinner with a Doc”

An OUWB administrator recently shared his unique professional journey with a group of medical students in hopes of helping them achieve “dreams can be achieved” with persistence and hard work.

Pierre Morris, MD, Associate Dean for Clinical Education, was the featured guest at a “Dinner with a Doc” event hosted by OUWB Diversity & Inclusion.

About a dozen students attended the event, which was held at OUWB’s O’Dowd Hall. It was the first time the event had been held in person since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Morris recounted his journey from high school teacher to doctor to his current position at OUWB.

“I hope students understand the unconventional path I’ve taken in my career and that with persistence and hard work, dreams can come true,” Morris said.

“I also hope they understand that success in medical school is not just about excelling in exams, but rather about acquiring the knowledge and skills to care for patients competently while benefiting from the experience. “, he added.

Morris’ journey

Morris was born and raised in St. Louis, Mo. He earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and another in biology from Washington University in St. Louis. After graduation, he worked as a high school biology teacher – a role he held for much longer than expected.

“It was supposed to be a part-time job for three months, replacing another teacher on maternity leave,” he said. “In the end, three months turned into 12 years because the other teacher didn’t come back.”

An image of Dr Morris speaking with a student
Morris chats with OUWB medical student David Howell after the “Dinner with a Doc” event.

Morris said he loved being a high school teacher and was inspired by his mother, also a high school teacher who taught French. This is how he ended up with the name Pierre, he noted.

Towards the end of her time as a high school teacher, Morris’ wife, Sharon, got a job opportunity in Michigan. As he says, she had the best paying job, so they moved. Morris landed a job at Okemos High School.

At 36, he decided he was ready for a career change and was leaning heavily towards becoming a doctor. Morris recounted how his stepfather offered to finish medical school when he was 40.

“He said, ‘You’re going to be 40 whether you go to medical school or not, so might as well be 40 and do whatever you want with your life,'” Morris said.

Morris began attending medical school at Barbados-based Ross University.

He said it was difficult because school officials and teachers kept the students busy so they would avoid trouble on the Caribbean island, where the students stayed for their first two years.

To survive, he says, Morris and six other students formed an intensive study group. The group made a pact to meet every day and study together.

“We ended up doing well,” Morris said. “The best guy in the bunch became a neurosurgeon at Mayo Clinic.”

After graduating from Ross, Morris began what would be a 20-year affiliation with Wayne State University School of Medicine — first as a resident, then a professor, then in the positions he held there for 10 years before joining OUWB last November.

These positions concurrently served as founding program director for Wayne State University School of Medicine’s transition year residency program and as director of the family medicine and public health sciences residency program.

Morris joined OUWB about a year ago and said he has “enjoyed it ever since”.

“OUWB turned out to be the right person for me, and I guess I turned out to be the right person for OUWB because I’m here,” he told the students.

‘It was great’

Morris’ story is exactly the kind that makes “Dinner with a Doc” events so special, said Tiffany Williams, Ph.D., Director, Diversity and Inclusion, OUWB.

“It’s important for our medical students to have multiple perspectives and to learn about the different experiences and backgrounds of various physicians,” she said. “That’s why this event was started…to help them learn, network and build relationships.”

The students said they had strayed far from the presentation.

Max Kuang, M1, said he “thought it was great”.

“For me, it was a long road into medical school, and it was nice to hear that not everyone comes straight from college,” he said. “I enjoyed learning how Dr. Morris built a successful career.”

David Howell, M3, said Morris’ presentation made him feel a little less stressed.

“The most important thing I took away is that there is nothing wrong with sitting down now and believing that the opportunities will come,” he said. “Also, when they come up, just go full metal.”

It also had a big impact on Ali Rida, M3, who said he felt there were several similarities between his own background and that of Morris.

“Especially when he was talking about going with the flow and seeing what happens,” he said. “That’s how a lot of my journey has been too.”

For more information, contact Andrew Dietderich, Marketing Writer, OUWB, at adietderich@oakland.edu.

To request an interview, visit the OUWB Communications & Marketing webpage.

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