In her nearly 11 years with the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Dr. Michelle Owens has focused on the well-being of women and babies, putting a spotlight on the health-care needs of some of the state's most underserved. Her tireless efforts have been noted by the Women's Foundation of Mississippi, an organization which recently named Owens as one of its Women of Vision 2015 honorees.
A board-certified maternal fetal medicine specialist whose interests include medical complications of pregnancy, teen pregnancy prevention along with infant and maternal mortality, Owens continually takes on roles to help serve women.
Currently she's serving as the Young Physician at Large representative to the Executive Board of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Every Friday, she can be heard on Mississippi Public Broadcasting's weekly radio show, Southern Remedy.
Helmed by Dr. Rick deShazo, professor of medicine at UMMC, the show gives Owens the opportunity to reach a wider audience about health issues facing women, especially in the South.
"When Dr. deShazo asked me to do this, I was a little nervous actually," admitted Owens. "But there was a lot of support for me to be a part of this project, and through that we've seen incredible growth on the show.
"It's great to have this listening audience who we can touch. From Arkansas down to the Florida Panhandle, we are getting our message out about how women can live healthier lives and about issues that are specifically important to women's health. This expands our reach to people we otherwise may not be able to touch in an office setting, but they can still reap the benefits of hearing great health information."
Owens also can be found working in UMMC's obstetrical care clinics and involving herself with the local chapter of March of Dimes ("I do that on behalf of all the babies."), but Owens said the work with the Women's Foundation has been rewarding because it allows her to combine all of her interests "under one big philosophical umbrella."
"The mission of the Women's Foundation really resonates with me, because it has allowed me the opportunity to work on bettering individual health but also to look at these issues from the social perspective; issues that have a huge impact on the overall well-being of women and children in Mississippi," said Owens.
"Michelle has served on the board for the Women's Foundation of Mississippi for about six years, and she's been a very important board member because of her medical background and work with issues affecting women," said Carol Penick, executive director of the Foundation. "We took on the issue of reducing the teen pregnancy rate three years ago, and Michelle has been vital with her medical knowledge.
"We chose her to be a Woman of Vision because she really is," said Penick.
The influence of strong women has always been with Owens, who credits her mother as the first of many strong female role models who have shaped who she is today.
"She was such a big influence in creating a mindset for me, this little world where everything was possible," said Owens. "With my mom - and my dad - they were always so encouraging. No test or challenge was too great. I think that seed they planted was the most important thing; it carried over to other parts of my life. Because when I encounter obstacles or hit a wall and question the possibilities of my situation, I hear the voices of my parents saying, 'Absolutely, you can do it!'"
Since arriving at UMMC in 2004, Owens said she's been surrounded by supportive female role models.
"When I came here to Mississippi, I met Dr. Helen Barnes," said Owens of the associate professor emeritus of ob-gyn and one of the first African-American physicians to practice medicine in Mississippi. "Dr. Barnes reminded me of so many strong women in my life. When you think of all the hardships she experienced and overcame, then all of a sudden you take a look at your challenges, it really puts things in perspective."
"Then I think about other women who are at the Medical Center, like Dr. LouAnn Woodward, for example," said Owens. "Though she's still young, she has achieved so much. It's an inspiration to be able to see women like her who balance home and their professional lives, to be successful professionally and yet still prioritize and acknowledge the most important things at home.
"She's a twin mom like me," said Owens of Woodward. "I'm in awe of anybody who's a twin mom."
In addition to her 17-month old twins, Joshua and Taylor, Owens also has a 4-year-old son, Jody "Tripp" Owens III, with her husband, Jody Owens II.