Jackie Kretz | May 6, 2020
James Pike, DO, president and chief executive officer of Pike Medical Consultants (PMC) and founding chair, Dean’s Advisory Board for Marian University College of Osteopathic Medicine (MU-COM), gives more credit for his accomplishments to chance than he should.
He says things like, “osteopathic medicine found me” and “I was at the right place at the right time.” But, chances are good, he is just too humble to attribute more to his own mission-driven intentions. Even more likely, he’s too busy thinking of others—and not just his patients.
Pike is addicted to mentoring.
Pike’s own first mentor, Dr. Ramon Dunkin, pulmonologist and medical director of Winona Hospital where Pike was working as a respiratory therapist, had a major impact on his life by encouraging him to go to medical school. It took a few years, but at the age of 25, Pike was accepted to the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in 1979.
Since then, besides caring for countless patients as an osteopathic doctor of internal medicine, pulmonary, and critical care, Pike has taken on the role of mentor with enthusiasm and passion. While he admits he’s getting closer to considering retirement, he says it’s the interaction with his students that he’s not ready to give up.
“The day-to-day joy of practicing medicine has a lot to do with the presence of our students. It’s a special opportunity and provides a powerful sense of purpose,” he said.
Every month, third and fourth-year medical students from MU-COM and physician assistant students from Butler University rotate at PMC. Pike and his wife, Jan, a respiratory therapist, founded the northwest side clinic together in 2007 to help meet the need of the community in Pike Township, the most medically underserved township in Marion County. PMC has also employed a nursing student from Marian University’s Leighton School of Nursing and undergraduates at Marian as well.
Pike’s association with Marian University began a decade ago when the Indiana Osteopathic Association (IOA) partnered with Marian to open the first osteopathic medicine school in Indiana. At the time, Pike was working with Luke Nelligan, DO at their practice. Nelligan sold Pike on the future of osteopathic medical education in Indiana and then they agreed to provide administrative and financial support to the new school.
“I remember getting excited while listening to President Dan Elsener’s vision and then, when the decision to move forward was officially made, I thought, this is going to be awesome,” Pike said. “This was such a game-changing move for Marian University to understand the complexity and need for primary care physicians in Indiana and to answer that call.”
Pike appreciates the access to MU-COM students and medical school culture and traditions, especially the powerful and rewarding white coat and hooding ceremonies that he and Jan rarely miss. He speaks with a doting pride when he talks about all his students, listing them by name and achievement. There are too many to list here, but one favorite story involves MU-COM students Bryce Buente ’20, Justin Staley ’20, and Katherynne Taylor Greve ’20 who found a project which champions two of Marian’s core Franciscan sponsorship values: peace and justice and responsible stewardship.
They wanted to open a free medical clinic on the west side of Indianapolis, so they asked Pike to be their external mentor advisor for the project. They initiated a partnership with Providence Cristo Rey High School to service their students in 2017 and then opened up to the community in 2018. The Near West Outreach Clinic is now an independent non-profit organization that is managed and supported by MU-COM students.
Pike is a very proud mentor and especially appreciates the initiative and leadership demonstrated by his students. The clinic provides much needed care to the largely Hispanic community that previously did not have access to health care.
And Pike is proud of how MU-COM has delivered on its promise by providing the community with high quality, prepared graduates and a well-rounded, medically strong program. Pike appreciates that MU-COM has given students the opportunity to understand the importance of primary care, but also encourages and supports those interested in pursuing other specialties.
“Moving forward, I’d like to see MU-COM incorporate more leadership development to further align with Marian’s goal to produce more transformational leaders for the world—leaders like Buente, Staley, and Greve. It’s something we should, can, and will do over the second decade to meet the ever-challenging world we live in today,” Pike said.
That doesn’t sound like retirement talk. When asked what he and his wife do in their free time, he at first just laughed at the concept, but then said they do try to squeeze in one cruise each winter and a visit to Branson, Missouri, in the fall, to enjoy the peace and see some shows.
He also admits to enjoying the medical television series New Amsterdam, a drama featuring a noble doctor who just wants to help people. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Pike would likely argue any similarities with the lead character, Dr. Max Goodwin, but there is no denying the impact of Dr. James Pike on the Indianapolis community and the graduates of the first osteopathic medical school in Indiana.