Doctor Moms

Dr. Vera Oyabure and Dr. Shelley Ferrill.
Photo by Audrey Franceen Photography.

Cover Story | By Henry Dibrell –

May is when we celebrate one of the most precious and honored people in our lives – our mothers. I lost my mom years ago, and I miss her every day. In this issue, we feature two very special moms, who are not only outstanding women and moms, but outstanding practicing physicians as well. I’m in awe of these two incredible women, and we are happy to celebrate the achievements and share the stories this Mother’s Day of Dr. Shelley Ferrill and Dr. Vera Oyabure.

Dr. Shelley Ferrill

absolutely! Katy: Tell us about your journey in medicine. What made you want to become a doctor, and what was the process?

Dr. Shelley Ferrill: I was born and raised in Texas, and I attended Baylor University where I graduated Summa Cum Laude with a degree in Biology. After graduation, I did a year of research into Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which causes cervical, oral and esophageal cancers. There is now a vaccine against HPV, which I recommend for my patients. I attended University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, then completed  a residency in Family Medicine at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences-AHEC Northwest in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Family ties called me home to the Houston area after graduation.

As a child, I always wanted to be a doctor, but a physician’s responsibilities were intimidating. I did a lot of soul searching before committing to a career that demands so much. For me, it was God’s calling for my life, and once I realized that, I’ve never regretted the time and effort it requires. When deciding my specialty, I knew treating children would be an important part of my career as I’ve worked with them since I was young.  The care of families fits my passions and personality the best, and I was thrilled to open Family Medical Center at Cinco Ranch some 15 years ago.

ak: You are also a mom. How you balance your duties as a physician and your duties as a mom?

Kaitlyn, Shelly and Garrett Ferrill.

SF: Balancing vocation and family also factored into my choice of Family Practice. I count myself blessed to have a wonderful career yet still be able to be active in the lives of my children. Because I utilize hospitalists to take care of my patients in the hospital, I was able to be home more with my children when they were little – in the middle of the night, infants don’t care that their mother is a doctor!  This became even more important when I became a single parent. Owning my own business gave me the flexibility to do things like read to my children’s classes and go to class parties in elementary school and to volunteer with their activities and chaperone as they got older. It allowed me to go camping with my son as a young Boy Scout and volunteer with my daughter in National Charity League. Working hard to complete my charting and clinic tasks during regular office hours allows me to be home to make dinner and be a part of their after-school lives.         

ak: What would your advice be to young women who want to follow in your footsteps?

SF: My advice to both young men and women looking into medicine as a career is this: You must want to be a doctor. You can’t do it for your parents or because you’re smart or just to make money. There are great rewards, but there are great requirements as you daily hold another’s life in your hands. For women, if they see themselves having a traditional family, it is absolutely possible, but it requires you to be selective. While women are capable of being great neurosurgeons or intensive care physicians, specialties that require long or late hours in the hospital will necessitate a supportive spouse and more help with the children from family or a nanny.   

Motherhood is the great equalizer. The experiences I’ve had as a mother give me empathy with my patients. It is a sisterhood that all mothers understand but is particularly valuable to physician mothers because it gives us insight into the challenges that our patients face. Motherhood also brings humility because all the education in the world doesn’t heal a child’s hurt or mean anything when life’s challenges come.

ak: Tell us about your wonderful children.

SF: I have two children who attended Alexander and Stanley Elementary, then Seven Lakes Junior High and High School.  Garrett is a junior, and Kaitlyn is now a freshman at Baylor University, where she’s on the Dean’s List. Garrett has tried a variety of activities, including theatre tech, ag mechanics and robotics but is most proud of his involvement in Boy Scouts Troop 1103 where he is working toward his Eagle Scout rank. Kaitlyn was very active in choir and theatre, performing the lead role in the Tommy Tunes’ nominated musical Big Fish. A gifted writer, she travelled to New York City to receive a National Scholastic Gold Medal for short story her senior year. She is majoring in Business Marketing and MIS and loving her Baylor Bears.

Dr. Vera Oyabure

absolutely! Katy: Tell us about your journey in medicine. What made you want to become a doctor, and what was the process?

Dr. Vera Oyabure: Since the age of five, I have always known I wanted to be a doctor. During medical school, I decided to specialize in family medicine, which would give me the opportunity to serve people and establish lasting doctor-patient relationships.

In faith, I pursued my career and plowed through the rigorous training, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I decided to initially become a hospitalist, attending to more complex and acute medical conditions in a hospital environment. Over the years, I gained significant and valuable experience as a hospitalist. However, as a hospitalist, I found the value in proactive primary care, which can help improve overall patient well-being, reduce hospitalizations and emergency room visits that have become a huge cost burden on patients. So, I decided to return to my passion – outpatient primary care.

I decided that opening a traditional primary care office that just moved people through an assembly line was not the way to serve and foster quality doctor-patient relationships. Instead, I started a direct primary care (DPC) practice called KarisMed Family Medicine. Direct primary care ensures I can have a smaller volume of patients, and I am able to dedicate more time to the patients under my care.

ak: You are also a mom. How you balance your duties as a physician and your duties as a mom?

VO: With most physicians working an average of 60 hours or more weekly, work-life balance is complex in today’s medicine. I believe there are three key factors of balancing my duties as a physician and mom:

1. Purpose

The most basic question everyone faces in life is why am I here? When you understand the purpose of why you were created, you will have the passion to proceed daily in fulfilling that purpose, regardless of situations or circumstances that may arise. To me, being a physician is a job I do with a great purpose.

Health is the most valuable asset in life. Therefore, as a physician, my purpose is to help people improve their quality of life by promoting, maintaining and restoring their health. This sincere and deep desire is a force that gives me the passion to not only have a successful career, but also to be a wife and mom.

2. Time Management

I always try to balance time with my patients to foster those quality relationships, as well as do the same for my family. I allot dedicated time for my patients and my family.

3. Family

Speaking of family, I know I am blessed to be a physician, but I am even more blessed to be a wife and a mother. I understand that my primary responsibility is to be a wife and a mother. I must also add that having a supportive spouse has certainly made my job much easier – thanks to my husband!

ak: What would your advice be to young women who want to follow in your footsteps?

VO: My advice to young women is to always strive to be the best in all you do. My mom always says, “Any job worth doing should be done well.” When you know you have been called by God to do something, you also understand that He equips you with the tools and willpower to complete what you have been called to.

ak: Tell us about your wonderful children.

VO: I have two young boys, and they are my joy and truly God’s gifts to me. Michael, my oldest, is sweet and intelligent. He is such a great big brother who loves on his little four- month old brother Nathan. Nathan is growing and exceeding all his developmental milestones. It is so precious to watch the two of them interact. I am excited to see the great things God has in store for them.

These two outstanding ladies have given their lives to serve others, all while serving as wonderful moms. As we celebrate Mother’s Day, take the time to thank all of the very special women in our lives. Happy Mother’s Day Katy Moms!