Family medicine resident rocketing toward dream job on ‘Space Coast’

The Wright Center graduate combines his passions for science and medicine in patient-care role at epicenter of nation’s aerospace industry

Family physician Gary Oh ’23, M.D., routinely shoots for the stars, which perhaps explains why his next job will take him as close to the Final Frontier as you can get without boarding a spacecraft.

Dr. Oh – a lifelong lover of math, martial arts, the hard sciences, and ice hockey’s Edmonton Oilers – will graduate in the fall from The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education, where he is completing a three-year residency in Family Medicine.

Then, he’s bound for Florida’s “Space Coast,” the area near Cape Canaveral known for its vast beaches and NASA’s booming blastoffs. Dr. Oh will live at the epicenter of the nation’s aeronautics and space exploration industry and work for one of America’s top-rated health care organizations, Parrish Healthcare.

Based in Titusville, Parrish routinely wins accolades and awards for patient safety and other performance measures. Its Parrish Medical Center belongs to the prestigious Mayo Clinic Care Network. And of nearly 3,000 hospitals evaluated by The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in 2013, Parrish Medical Center placed in the top 6% and was ranked the nation’s No. 5 independent public hospital.

Dr. Oh expects to join the high-performing organization on Oct. 14 as an attending family medicine physician. He likely will be located at Parrish Healthcare Center in Port St. John.

The population of the Titusville area – home to Astronaut High School and Apollo Elementary – has risen in recent years thanks to a revived interest, and massive investment, in missions designed to carry people to the moon and Mars. Plus, some of the biggest players in the nascent space tourism industry are recruiting a high-tech workforce there to produce rocket engines and to safely suit up and send civilians on pricey sightseeing trips.

“There’s now a great need in the community for family physicians,” says Dr. Oh. “That’s where I come in.”

A frequent face at Crunch Fitness in downtown Scranton, Gary Oh, M.D., maintains his body and mind through regular workouts. He was attracted to The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education, in part, because of the organization’s budding focus on Lifestyle Medicine, which aligns with his own longtime interests in exercise, healthy eating, and other strategies to achieve and maintain wellness.

Dr. Oh is a self-described British-born, Canadian-raised, inventive, snowboard-riding dude from Edmonton who admits to being “humbled” and a bit awestruck by his latest career opportunity. After all, he will be part of an organization at the exciting forefront of science, technology, and medicine – and the continued convergence of all three. (Think artificial intelligence in the exam room.)

He became enamored with Parrish Medical Center as soon as a Florida-based recruiter put the organization on his radar. “I had gone on six prior job interviews before Parrish Medical Center, so it wasn’t my first date,” he says. “But it was definitely my best date. It was love at first sight. After that, I was like, no, I’m not interested in anything else.”

Apparently, the feeling was mutual. Dr. Oh finished his interview at Parrish Medical Center and departed Florida Sunday morning. By the next day, he received a job offer and a contract to sign, he says.

Dr. Oh’s compelling resumé helped to propel him to the top of the contender’s list. His career path is punctuated by degrees from two medical schools, participation in multiple residency programs (including a psychiatry residency), co-creation of a self-defense program, and a stint leading a startup seaweed harvesting operation.

He also credits The Wright Center’s training experience and guiding philosophy for helping to propel him on his career journey. He delivered care in primary care clinics and area hospitals amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, developing his skills as a compassionate, patient-centered physician. And he was able to pursue his research and publishing interests. For example, he served as principal investigator on a research project that involved fellow Wright Center residents and focused on eliminating the occurrence of “text neck,” a musculoskeletal problem caused by the constant use of laptops, cellphones, and similar devices.

Eric Samonte, M.D., program director of The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education’s Regional Family Medicine Residency, describes Dr. Oh as “very keen on what his peers’ needs are” and “quite driven and motivated to do the best he can for his patients.”

“Gary has been a resident in other programs in Canada, and he also is a successful entrepreneur. The Wright Center became a sort of forge where his experiences and abilities were honed to their fullest potential,” says Dr. Samonte. “His next career step will be a very nice fit for his experience and personality – as he likes being at the forefront of medicine and technology.”

The full scope of Dr. Oh’s wide-ranging interests and life experiences, including the rationale behind his Wright Center research project, came flooding out during his job interview at Parrish Medical Center.

“Our conversation went into physics, chemistry, inorganic chemistry, biochemistry, neurosciences, diffusion tensor imaging of the brain (which I’d published on), the mind-body connection …,” he says. “We covered a lot of ground!”

Dr. Oh’s seemingly eclectic job history is actually a succession of thought-out activities linked by a common thread: A deeply held desire to make society better – both for those who are here now and for the next generation.

‘Drawn toward health care’

Dr. Oh arrived in Canada at age 3. The family had relocated from Great Britain because his father, a civil engineer, worked in the energy industry and landed near the fuel-producing oil sands. His mother was a registered nurse. She had frank talks with him as a young child about her daily work, even when it involved matters of life and death. He knew by the time he was about 6 years old that he wanted to be a physician. “At a very young age,” he says, “I felt drawn toward health care because it resonated with my spirit.”

His desire to join the healing profession only intensified in high school, where he excelled in the classroom. “Mathematics, physics, chemistry, force, light – these things just all made sense to me,” he says.

Dr. Oh earned his first medical degree in 2001 at the University of Alberta. He entered residencies in psychiatry before ultimately finding his niche in family medicine.

“For me, family medicine is perfect,” he says. The discipline gives him the ability to form trusting relationships with patients over time and to promote whole-person care throughout their lifespan. “Family medicine allows me to keep my knowledge sharp in every single component of medicine: The mind, the body, everything.”

By 2008, however, Dr. Oh needed to take a break from the rigors of patient care. He and a then-girlfriend in the prior year had a child, with whom Dr. Oh remains in contact today through an open adoption agreement. The young physician realized he needed to prioritize his personal life and appropriately deal with long pent-up emotions.

“I intended to return to medicine,” he says, “but I needed time.”

Given his keen interest in the human body and the convergence of medicine, science, and technology, Gary Oh, M.D., seems perfectly suited to further his career on Florida’s ‘Space Coast.’ He enjoys pondering big questions, such as how to keep the body strong during a round trip to Mars over two to three years. ‘I have some ideas,’ he says, smiling.

Endeavors that serve community

During his hiatus from medicine, Dr. Oh and a childhood pal, who worked in the Edmonton Police Service, developed and promoted a form of self-defense training that they called the Hard Target program. Although Dr. Oh is no longer involved in its hands-on training, he remains active as an external consultant.

He also published a patent, which “took on a life of its own,” he says. The patent involves a technique for harvesting red seaweed that had long been considered a nuisance around Vancouver Island. The nonindigenous plant washes onto coastal beaches each winter, collecting into putrid piles as it rots and releases methane gas. Turns out, the plant contains carrageenan, a natural ingredient used as a thickening agent in products ranging from certain shampoos and toothpastes to milk.

Dr. Oh entertained several offers from suitors interested in the dried seaweed business. Ultimately, he chose Beaver Meadow Farms, an SPCA-certified organic cow farm, and says he committed to spending one year with the company to help get and keep the beach harvesting operation going.

Former Canada resident Gary Oh, M.D., is a longtime practitioner of mixed martial arts and goes to great lengths today to maintain his flexibility and overall fitness. During a hiatus from medicine years ago, he offered self-defense lessons to crime victims in tandem with members of the Edmonton Police Services.

“We’re taking trash and turning it into treasure,” says Dr. Oh, who retains a partial ownership stake in the operation. However, he made one thing clear to his business partners from the start: He was going to return to medicine.

Dr. Oh decided to repeat medical school, graduating in 2019 from the Saint James School of Medicine, knowing it would update his knowledge base and expand his opportunities.

He approaches all of his chosen pursuits – from medicine to mixed martial arts, to dirt bike riding, to personal fitness – with focus and high energy. Dr. Oh is a teacher of sorts, quick to share what he’s learned with others. As he talks about seaweed, or a new artificial intelligence tool for physicians called Nuance DAX, or dozens of other interest areas, his enthusiasm will sometimes show in his sweeping arm and hand gestures, which flow in a smooth and controlled manner, and in his quick, rising laugh.

In those moments, Dr. Oh gives the impression there are forces within him that simply cannot be contained for much longer – like a rocket, rumbling and ready to soar.

The Wright stuff?

The seasoned physician arrived at The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education in 2020, eager to gain further experience in the U.S. medical system. He was drawn to The Wright Center for multiple reasons, including the enterprise’s budding focus on Lifestyle Medicine, which aligns with his own interest in the mind-body connection, and its range of fellowship programs.

As an immigrant to Canada, Dr. Oh also appreciates that The Wright Center offers opportunities to physicians from the United States and abroad who compete for the limited number of available slots in U.S. residency programs. “I’m surrounded by the brightest from around the world,” he says.

“The public and our patients in Northeast Pennsylvania might not realize it,” he explains, “but The Wright Center has taken the brightest minds from around the world and put them to work for you right here.”

Dr. Oh looks forward to gaining additional talented colleagues and mentors upon his arrival on the Space Coast, where even the telephone area code (3, 2, 1 …) hints of something spectacular about to take flight. In particular, he speaks reverently about the possibility of learning from, or collaborating with, military physicians. “To me, working at Parrish, where some of these people are heroes, it’s an honor,” he says.

Then, as Dr. Oh’s enthusiasm and his Edmonton upbringing kick in, he adds: “It’s like if you play hockey, you start out on the bench, but now I’m moving up toward the first line.

“I just hope I don’t turn over the puck!”