It’s unlikely that many physicians were practically pushed through the front door of a medical school by a well-meaning monk who saw the young undergraduate’s skill in the sciences and potential to impact people’s lives, but ask Family Physician Paul Oltman, MD, how he came to be a doctor, and you’ll learn that both serendipity and loving adults played roles.
“I am very thankful for my instructors and my advisor who saw something in me and pushed me in this direction,” Dr. Oltman said.
He joined Sarah Bush Lincoln as a family practice physician at Sarah Bush Lincoln Effingham Clinic at 905 N. Maple Street, Effingham. He is certified by the American Board of Family Medicine and has a Certificate of Added Qualification in Sports Medicine. He also enjoys occupational medicine. His phone number remains the same, 217 347-7776.
The Effingham-based family physician explains that his journey began in a rural area southwest of Chicago where he was raised along with his three brothers and three sisters. His father was a self-taught computer programmer who saw no need for his children to go to college. His mother, however, encouraged him to attend college, so just days before what would become his freshman year, Dr. Oltman enrolled in Benedictine University in Lisle.
Because he had registered for classes so late and there were few entry-level science classes open, Dr. Oltman’s advisor placed him in chemistry and zoology. This chance placement set the course for the rest of his life. “There were quite a few pre-med students in the classes, and I did pretty well. My advisor encouraged me to continue in the sciences,” Dr. Oltman said. “A professor at the school, one of the Benedictine Monks, Father Ted [Theodore] Suchy convinced me that I should go to medical school.”
He explained, “As kids, we didn’t go to the doctor very often. My dad didn’t really believe in that, so I had never thought of this as a career choice. Father Ted believed in me so much that he completed the MCAT [medical admission] application form, enclosed a check and brought it to my dorm room for me to sign and send it in— a day before the deadline,” Dr. Oltman recalled.
Dr. Oltman now calls Family Practice his calling. In fact, he reflects on that experience and others as formative in his approach to patient care. In addition to having grown up in a home with six siblings, Dr. Oltman was blessed to have his grandmother live with them. He credits her as one of the biggest influencers in his life. “She was very caring and understanding, and living with her made me more appreciative of older people and what they may be going through. When I see my older patients, I think about how I’d want my grandmother treated,” he said.
Other experiences that impact his approach to patient care include the many different jobs he worked to finance his way through college and medical school. He worked for a landscaping company, in construction, and in retail where he stocked shelves and unloaded trucks. Those physically demanding work experiences help him to better understand work-related injuries and the importance of returning injured workers to their jobs.
As a former high school athlete, who recently began performing triathlons, he understands the physical demands of training and the importance of getting athletes of all ages back to their sport after suffering an injury.
Dr. Oltman is using both the intellect and compassion that Father Ted identified in him, along with a lifetime of experiences, to provide care for a wide range of patients in his practice. He completed medical school at the University of Illinois in Chicago and Peoria, and he completed a residency at Illinois Masonic Medical Center, Chicago.
Dr. Oltman met his wife, Myra, in the Effingham area. They have two adult children, Taylor and Paige, who graduated from St. Anthony High School. Dr. Oltman said “I feel very blessed to be doing what I love to do in a community that I call home,”
“I look forward to continuing to provide my patients with the best possible care. I’m excited to be a part of the Sarah Bush Lincoln team.”
To make an appointment with Dr. Oltman, call SBL Effingham Clinic at 217 347-7776.