In Touch with Her True Calling to Heal: Dr. I. Monet Ouwinga

Imagine a friend who is down-to-earth yet a bit of an idealist. She’s always available and listens attentively with her ears and heart to your dreams, disappointments, joys, and pains, without judgment or dismissal. She is honest and straightforward, offering advice with a wise compassion that clearly has your health and well-being in mind. Now imagine that this person is your doctor and that she has the experience and training to help you transform your life and turn your dreams of being your best self into reality. In Southern Maryland, specifically Calvert County, Dr. I. Monet Ouwinga, Dr. O, as she prefers, is this friend and this doctor, and she is available when and where she’s needed most.

A native of Brooklyn, NY, Dr. O relocated to Calvert County in 2014. Her background and training includes Medical School at the Medical University of the Americas, Nevis, West Indies, her residency at Loyola University Medical Center, Chicago, IL, and a fellowship focusing on Maternal Child Health at West Suburban Hospital, Oak Park, IL. During her training she participated in a number of medical missions, acting as lead physician running the Gynecology clinic and delivering babies. She has also served as an HIV counselor at New York City’s Rikers Island jail complex, educating women about HIV and AIDS. We sat down with Dr. O recently to discuss her work, motivations, and hopes.

Southern Maryland Woman: You’re a mother, wife, family medical practitioner, you founded and operate Your Time Medical and serve as a medical director at Bella Salon & Spa. You’re also a physician examiner for child victims and you are a substance abuse treatment provider. How do you do it all?

Dr. O: I just do! I take a deep breath. I focus on what is important. I use my woo-saa ability to pause and re-center, calm down, and relax. Helping others helps me, and being a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem keeps me going. I see myself as a helper, a facilitator. Every morning I offer up my day to a higher power that I believe is working through me to help patients. When I walk into a room I immediately identify my patient as someone I love, for example, a nice older lady is my mother, and when you do that you can do no harm, because you can never harm someone you love. That person becomes more than a patient to me, even at their first visit. It’s my priority to maintain a professional-personal relationship with the people who come to me. Since I moved to Calvert County, I have been working to make it my own world, and I bring people into that. The reality is that I’m a doctor whether I’m on the clock or not. It’s more than my job, it’s my life.

SMW: In your own words, what is your role in the community?

Dr. O: My role is just to be myself and let all my roles flow from that. I’m a firm believer in second, third, and fourth chances. We are only human and should be allowed to make mistakes; I’m here to help and support people when they fall and especially when they want to get back up. There are enough people judging, I have chosen to help. I work with my patients and clients to find the root of the pain, addiction, sadness. I do this by digging into the person’s medical, social, and family history. When we can do that, then we can start treatment.

SMW: What attracted you to this work?

Dr. O: I’ve always wanted to help. Even as a child, I would help others or take the blame for someone else so they wouldn’t get in trouble. I thought about going into nursing, my instructors often said I was too opinionated and outspoken and probably wouldn’t make it as a nurse! I took it to heart when my best friend, who is now a doctorate nurse, told me she strongly agreed with my instructors. So, I followed my initial calling and went to medical school so I could help on a broader scale. I was fortunate to have great female mentors who helped to empower me and teach me how to stick up for what I believe in. They also taught me how instrumental I would be not just as a physician but as an advocate for my patients.

SMW: What motivates you to stay involved?

Dr. O: I’m grateful to be able to do this work, and the gratitude that my patients and my family have for me keeps me going. I also work with a great team of women who understand my intentions and fully support and and trust me to take care of their most loved ones, which is the biggest honor for me. Honestly, I would do the work for free if I got a genuine thank you each time, and a grant to pay the bills! [laughing] Really, though, a thank you goes a long way, whether it’s from a patient or a colleague.

SMW: In your opinion, what is the most important work that you do?

Dr. O: It’s all so important to me, but if you’re making me choose I would have to say counseling women and teens who have anxiety and depression. I was bullied a lot as an adolescent and the ramifications from that can range from decreased self-esteem, self harm, bad decisions to suicide. Helping someone overcome the emotional pain is the most important thing I can do. I have the medical knowledge to address these issues, and I’ve been there myself, so I get it. I like to remind people that maybe someday the ones that picked on you will be calling you their boss, always listen to the song until the end. My new mantra is “mental illness is not a dirty word.” Patients reach out to me because I’m transparent about my own experiences. It goes without saying that there is a huge military population around here. I’ve found that a lot of these women didn’t realize what they signed up for. Sometimes they need to come in just to vent about that lifestyle and the sacrifices it entails.

SMW: How else has your background inspired your work?

Dr. O: I am of Haitian descent and grew up very sheltered. I didn’t have a curfew, I was expected to be home right after school. My mother was very protective and didn’t believe in sleepovers, for example. Being raised by a single mother from a third world country, she placed a high value on God, the fortunes we had of having a daily meal, and helping others who didn’t have. Early in my life I was exposed to people going hungry, without running water and naked in the streets. My first experience using an outhouse was so scary, I kept asking my mother ‘What if I fall in?’ – that made me want to be a part of the change. It also made me ask a lot of ‘Why?’ questions, which made me want to help even more.

SMW: You are a native New Yorker from Brooklyn, which is quite a contrast to Calvert County. What attracted you to Southern Maryland?

Dr. O: I wanted to move somewhere close enough to drive home (to NYC) when needed. I also needed to be in the perfect climate zone for my husband’s bonsai trees, (Dr. O’s husband, Matthew Ouwinga, is a nurseryman and Bonsai professional). We settled on Calvert County because it fit our wish list of proximity to New York (for me) and geographic climate (for my husband), plus it has a great educational system, which is important to us.

SMW: Tell us about Your Time Medical, the company you founded to provide cosmetic services and products like micro-needling (collagen induction therapy), exfoliating peels, anti-aging treatments, dermal filler, laser treatments (e.g., hair removal, acne, skin rejuvenation, wound healing, wart healing)?

Dr. O: I take a lot of pride in my appearance and maintenance, and it’s difficult to find providers with openings that worked with my busy schedule, and my sometimes having to bring my child with me). I found a great lady who would work with me but I always felt bad for asking her to stay late for me. My annoyance about that inspired me to provide services to other busy people in a child, and pet-friendly environment, complete with anonymity, privacy, and zero-wait time. I’m flexible and available when everyone else is closed, early mornings, after hours, even holidays like July 4, Christmas Eve and Day, and New Year’s Day. I’m available whenever and wherever my clients are available, in my home office or your home.

SMW: You’ve already achieved and contributed so much, personally and professionally. What are you most proud of?

Dr. O: Being a mom, hands down. When you hold your baby, it feels like your heart just created another ventricle, this one for your child, and instead of blood it’s full of love. I remember my mom would say ‘I feel your pain, I can feel it when you’re hurt, and I hurt,’ and I would tell her that she was exaggerating. But now I get it.

SWM: Do you have a message that you’d like to share?

Dr. O: In life, we wait for just about everything: on lines, on hold when calling customer service, in traffic, at the airport. Why would you want the most important aspect of your life, your health, to be crammed into a 15-minute appointment? I set aside ample time for my clients and make them a priority. Everyone gets the time they need with me. For more information visit www.yourtimemedical.com and to reach Dr. O or schedule an appointment at Your Time Medical call 443-294-2101 or email yourtimemedical@gmail.com

To connect with Dr. O via social media find her at www.facebook.com/yourtimemedical/

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Crystal Brandt

Crystal Brandt is a freelance writer and contributor to WOMAN magazine. A Southern Maryland native, she lived in New York City for almost 8 years before returning to St. Mary’s County in 2007. She has taught writing and literature in Maryland and New York, including courses at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, Pratt Institute, and Brooklyn College. She earned a B.A. in English (2000) from the University of Maryland – College Park and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing (2006) from Brooklyn College. In addition to writing, her interests include making and talking about music, practicing yoga and meditation, and experimenting with her blender and bread machine.