2019 EU Outstanding Young Alum Q&A: Milta Oyola Little
Name: Milta Oyola Little
Graduation Year: 2002
Major: Biology and Spanish
Current Position: Associate Professor of Geriatric Medicine, Duke University
City and State: Durham, North Carolina
Tell us about your career and what you do now.
I am an Associate Professor of Geriatric Medicine at Duke University. I went to medical school in Chicago and then relocated to St. Louis, Missouri, where I completed my post-graduate training in internal medicine and a fellowship in geriatrics. Following my fellowship, I accepted a position as a clinician-educator at St. Louis University, where I was for nearly a decade before recently moving to my current position at Duke. I am passionate about improving the care that is delivered to older adults, particularly those who have complex medical and social issues. I see people in all setting of care, including hospital, clinic, and nursing homes. I consider myself an expert in the complex needs of older adults and currently primarily work in a consultative role. My academic role is to educate health professionals on how to better care for older adults across the healthcare continuum and on their unique needs as they age. I am fortunate to be surrounded by amazing people in my specialty, who have served as mentors and sponsors throughout my career. This has been critical to my success so far and because of them, I have been able to gain a regional, national and emerging international reputation of excellence in my field.
What is your favorite memory from Evangel?
How can I choose one? Seriously! Here are some of my favorites:
Dr. Tosh’s Flatland chapel sermon. It blew out of the water all of my pre-conceived notions of what a sermon could be, bolstered my faith in the supernatural elements of the Bible, and solidified the fact that science and religion are not mutually exclusive.
Study nights at Dr. Bohannon’s house prior to an Organic Chemistry test, eating warm chocolate chip cookies around the packed dining room table.
Debating evolution versus young earth in Dr. Tennison’s class
Every Epiphany night but especially the one when I read one my poem, Love’s Light.
C.S. Lewis with Dr. Twyla Edwards. All classes with Twyla Edwards. My favorite moment from one of her intro classes was when she was describing the power of the story of Moses and the Burning bush. That day, she was wearing a billowy shirt with long sleeves. She had been teaching us about the word YWEH (the I AM) and when she spoke the words that God spoke from the bush, she threw her hands up in the sky, shaking her sleeves around as she yelled, “I AM THE I AM!” It was a really beautiful and moving moment.
Getting to study Spanish with both of my parents.
Friendly competitions for the best grade in physics with my future husband, Josh Little. He got the top score the first semester and I the second (or vice-versa – I can’t remember now and it no longer matters!).
Going to every football game our senior year to cheer on my new husband and the amazing team. Even though we had a heartbreaking loss in the playoffs, that season was one for the memory books for sure.
How did Evangel help you identify/develop your calling?
I started at Evangel already Pre-med, knowing I had been called to be a doctor. That was never a question for me. What was instrumental in shaping my future was a class with Dr. Tennison in which he presented the various MD-alternative degrees, including advanced practice and Osteopathic Medicine. I ended up choosing to attend an osteopathic medical school and became a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.). I am so glad that I did so because the D.O. philosophy and practice is very much in line with my personal beliefs and approach to life. At my medical school, I was able to meet several people who served as early role models to help me decide to become an internist and ultimately a geriatrician.
How did your experience at Evangel prepare you for life after graduation?
As a dual-major student in both the sciences and humanities, I was exposed to a wide variety of topics that made me a well-rounded graduate. In addition, since Evangel is a faith-based liberal arts institution, the professors encouraged us to explore and challenge our beliefs on a daily basis. This is unusual for most institutions of higher learning that either ignore the faith component or compartmentalize it. We didn’t just study faith, we lived our faith. We grew in our faith and became more open-minded because we were asked to challenge our faith.
What advice would you give a current student preparing for the workforce?
You are fortunate to be able to study with such great colleagues and professors at Evangel. Take advantage of this opportunity you have been given. Take classes outside of your major in things that interest you that you may never get to do again. Enjoy the small class sizes that are common in the upper-level courses. Prepare your CV now and don’t be afraid to brag on yourself. Find good mentors everywhere you go and keep in touch with them as they can serve as references or provide key advice down the line.
What would you look for if you were in a position to hire new graduates from Evangel?
Someone who took advantage of the liberal arts education being offered and who has taken additional coursework in the humanities and arts. I would also look for someone who participated in service activities and who held positions of leadership.