Lifelong advocate

Ohio osteopathic advocate reflects on 4-plus decades of serving Buckeye State DOs

“I’m proud that I’ve made a difference,” says Ohio Osteopathic Association Executive Director John Wills, who plans to retire next year.

After 42 years with the Ohio Osteopathic Association (OOA), Executive Director Jon Wills will retire next year. Over the years, Wills has been one of the Buckeye State’s most vocal advocates for the osteopathic profession. He describes the OOA as his family. Following is an edited Q&A.

The Legacy Award was established in 2015 by the OOA to recognize your decades of service. How did that make you feel?
I’m proud that I’ve made a difference, not only in osteopathic medicine but also in moving health care forward in Ohio.

You recently launched a health policy clerkship for fourth-year medical students. What’s that like?
We go to the statehouse and work with legislators. Students attend the Governor’s Opiate Action Meetings with me. Basically, we’re handling whatever is going on advocacy-wise at that time. Having the students around reminds me of how talented they are.

What advice do you have for aspiring DOs?
Find a passion for leading in something, whether that’s fighting human trafficking, improving cultural competence or treating diabetes. Doing so will keep you going and help you grow as a trainee and later as a physician.

How has osteopathic medicine affected the practice of health care?
Osteopathic medicine is the humanity of medicine. It’s always stressed treating the whole of a patient and maintaining wellness. Being around DOs has helped me look at things differently in my career and focus on trying to find solutions.

Where do you see the most growth in osteopathic medicine over the next 10 years?
Our strength has always been primary care. Going forward, the hands-on approach and taking care of pain are going to be really important. There’s an opioid epidemic, and people are exploring other ways to treat pain, including osteopathic manipulative treatment.

Jon Wills, executive director, Ohio Osteopathic Association

How has the profession impacted you personally?
Both my mother and my father, who was an MD, were cared for by DOs when they were ill at the end of their lives. I was so proud of the treatment they received from osteopathic physicians.

What’s been the most challenging part of what you do?
Doing everything. When you run a small association, if it snows, you have to shovel. You change light bulbs. I do whatever is needed. I’m doing all the lobbying myself, with two or three days a week at the statehouse. But you have to be visible.

What do you do when you’re not leading the OOA?
I love to garden. Plants have their way of telling you what they need from you. It’s relaxing and peaceful when I’m working in the yard.

What would people be surprised to know about you?
I was a journalism major at Ohio University, where my mom was a member of the faculty. She taught music. I played the clarinet and was a member of the marching band for two years. I missed OMED this year to attend our 50-year reunion.

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