Faculty Spotlight: Jessica Ziebarth, DO

Dr. Jessica Ziebarth is an Assistant Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at ICOM. She is a board-certified physical medicine and rehabilitation physician and has expertise in a variety of neurologic and musculoskeletal conditions. She also uses Osteopathic Techniques and Principals on a daily basis to care for patients both in the hospital and in the community.

Dr. Ziebarth was born in South Dakota. She attended Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, for her undergraduate degree in Psychology. She then attended Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Erie, Pennsylvania. She completed her Osteopathic Internship and residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). In residency, she received numerous awards and participated in several innovative research opportunities. She considers herself lucky to participate in the improvement of the human condition with every patient interaction.

Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in medicine?

A: I can’t say there was a specific event influencing my decision to become a physician. I knew that I wanted to work in a career that helped people, and I felt being a physician was a way to impact many people in a powerful, life changing way. I also had great role-models and mentors who encouraged me. I choose Pain Management & Rehabilitation (PM&R) as my specialty because I loved neurology, osteopathic principles and practice and musculoskeletal, and I wanted to create meaningful, longterm relationships with patients. PM&R also allows me to find creative ways to improve patient’s quality of life, whether it be wheelchair specialization, prosthetics and orthotics, or brain-computer interfacing. 

Q: How did you transition into academia, and what inspired you to work for ICOM?

A: Initially I had worked in private practice before ICOM, but quickly found I missed academics. Academic medicine dares you to do better, learn more, and to provide the best evidence-based care for your patients. I enjoy new perspectives from medical students, and how it challenges me to examine why I do the things I do. Why did I order that test or medication, is that medication safe and appropriate for my patient, and ultimately, why does it matter to my patient sitting in front of me? Teaching has allowed me to self-examine my own practice of medicine. Additionally, being from South Dakota and living in the west the majority of my life, the heart and mission of ICOM strikes a chord with me. Providing exceptional care to patients in our five-state target region is a passion of mine. 

Q: What is your favorite memory from your time at medical school?

A: I went to medical school in Erie, Pennsylvania, which has tons of snow in the winter. My car broke down, and I was borrowing my friend’s Jeep, which didn’t have a roof, windows or doors. My medical school had mandatory attendance and dress code, and I remember driving the Jeep in the middle of winter at 7:00 am, with feet of snow swirling around me, and getting stuck in a snow bank in the parking lot. Five of my friends from school helped me push the Jeep out of the snow bank. Afterwards, we walked into class with snowy, wet clothes, freezing through a full day of lecture. At the time, it was terrible, but now, I can look back and laugh. 

Q: Knowing what you now know, what advice would you give yourself as a first-year medical student?

A: One of my mentors gave me this piece of advice when I was an intern: “You will never have more time than you have today.” By this, he meant each stage of your career will only get busier. It was hard for me to imagine that life gets more hectic than medical school or residency, but it does! This piece of advice has led me to learn the importance of time management, efficiency, and prioritization. I also appreciate the hard-earned free time that I have!

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