Impactful PCOM Community Members | 125 Years Through 125 Stories
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125 Years Through 125 Stories

Impactful PCOM Community Members

An Enduring Impact: PCOM Community Members 
125 Years Through 125 Stories

August 1, 2022

As the College moves toward its Quasquicentennial in 2024, Digest Magazine invites you to celebrate the spirit, character and myriad accomplishments of Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine's first 125 years.

Through an ongoing series, presented in different mediums, we'll consider the College in the context of its past and future, chronicling the illustrious and untold stories of its people. We'll capture the richness and reality of place and the magnified moments that collectively reflect PCOM and its enduring commitment to meaningful education and experience.

Angus G. Cathie, DO '31, MSC, FAAO

As told by Jay Harris Joseph, DO ’56

PCOM anatomy professor Angus G. Cathie, DO ’31, MSC, FAAO”Dr. Cathie knew anatomy about as well as any person could, and he taught anatomy about as well as anyone possibly could. He had a distinct love of the profession of osteopathic medicine. … He also had the unbelievable ability to draw anatomic pictures on the blackboard, using multiple colors, with both hands at the same time—while he was also lecturing. … You did hope you would not be called on to participate in a discussion for which you probably would not have the full knowledge he expected. So people were somewhat reticent and would slink back in their chairs during his lectures. … In those days, a group of four or five students worked together on one body. Dr. Cathie would move diligently from table to table, reviewing the anatomy, correcting our impressions, helping in our dissections. He was absolutely superb in that respect. … On the other hand, I recall one situation very early in our program when we were doing the dissection, and he was at the front of the class having lunch. That hit some people in a strange way, and a few had to leave the room. … In the second semester of our junior year, Dr. Cathie taught a class in osteopathic manipulative therapy. Of 100 people in the class, 75 people failed his final exam. Fortunately, I passed, but unfortunately I was the class chairman, and it was incumbent upon me to go down to the dean of the school and say, ‘I remember, from my master’s degree in education, that if an overwhelming majority of your class fails a test, either there was some problem with the test or you didn’t teach it well.’ They then called Dr. Cathie down to discuss the matter with me. And I had to take the onslaught after repeating what I had said to them, but he did agree to give another exam for those 75. I had to withdraw from being the chairman of the class for the rest of the semester, which was about a month or so. But, in retrospect, it didn’t harm me whatsoever, and it did help the class. I think it was the makeup of the test, to be perfectly honest. He was a wonderful teacher.”

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Ruth Waddel Cathie, DO '38

As told by Lillian Hynes-Longendorfer, DO ‘67

Ruth Waddel Cathie, DO ’38”Dr. Cathie [at the time, Dr. Waddel] was an excellent teacher and a very hard taskmaster who wanted her students to understand the pathology of the diseases they were going to be seeing in clinical practice. When you first met her in the classroom, you were scared to death of her. I can remember pulling all-nighters just to pass her exams. But when you got to really know her, she was a cupcake. … She wasn’t only a good teacher; she was a good student as well. She’s probably among the first women to be certified in cytopathology, studying under Papanicolaou himself. I asked her to teach me how to do Pap smears, and spent many afternoons after class with her learning how to read them. … I also had the opportunity to see her on a more personal basis. A few of us women students wanted to form a chapter of Delta Omega, one of the female medical sororities on the campuses of the other medical schools in town. We needed a mentor, and she very graciously and very enthusiastically agreed to take on that role. We had our meetings at her home, where she provided both professional and personal guidance. Some of it dealt with how we were looked upon as women in the profession—good advice in terms of just being who you are and doing what you have to do. She was the first woman to chair a basic science department at PCOM [and at that time, the only woman—other than those at Women’s Medical College—who held such a position in the entire City of Philadelphia]. … Dr. Cathie suggested that I take a career in pathology. But I really didn’t like the idea of doing a lot of autopsies, and at that time they did a heck of a lot more than we do today. But after about eight years in general practice, I decided to go into something with a lifestyle that was more in line with raising a family at the same time. And I chose pathology and laboratory medicine, which led me to teaching positions and three directorships of hospital laboratories. … Years after Dr. Cathie had retired, I met her at one of the American Osteopathic Association conventions. She congratulated me on my achievements, and I told her that I had some truly big footsteps to follow in.”

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Meta L. Christy, DO 1921

As told by Beverly K. Andre, MS/Biomed ’20 (DO ’24)

PCOM alum Dr. Meta L. Christy”I come from a family of immigrants, and I’m the first in my family to attend medical school. So for me to know the story of Dr. Christy, another Black, minority woman, who did something so unorthodox, really is a motivator. … She was a pioneer: the College’s first African American student and the first African American doctor of osteopathic medicine. When she died, she was a widely known and respected osteopathic physician. She healed so many, especially the poor. … You see pictures hanging on the walls of PCOM of a lot of people who have had an impact. But when you walk into the College and see the face of someone who looks like you, when you see her name on a new [student housing] building, that’s very meaningful. … Dr. Christy had to be a very tough woman to be able to go to medical school when she did [1917–1921]. One brother and her father had died by the time she was ten. And her mother, one of the biggest supports she had, passed away just a few years after she graduated from PCOM. Just understanding how courageous she was, how resilient, how she didn’t let anything keep her back—I really adore that. … I’m transitioning out of my role as the co-president of the Student National Medical Association on campus, which works to increase the presence of minorities in medicine as well as to help support them throughout their journey. I work for the diversity office on campus as well, making presentations for their mentorship program. I’m also involved in a nonprofit organization, Girls on a Mission with Ambition. I’ve talked to students about being in medical school, and to students already in college or taking a non-traditional route who want to get back into the swing of things. I mentor them mainly because I didn’t have that. … When I was in college, Google was my best friend, because I didn’t have many people in my life who were physicians, let alone physicians who looked like me. So I had to do a lot of the work figuring out what I should study and how to get into medical school. It’s not just about representation, but it’s about the resources you provide. … Now that I’m here, I have a lot of people I can reach out to, ask questions. They tell me, ‘I do this because someone did it for me, and I want you to be able to do it for somebody else.’”

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Vincent T. Cipolla, DO '46

As told by Jay S. Feldstein, DO ’81, President and Chief Executive Officer, PCOM

PCOM anatomy professor Vincent T. Cipolla, DO ’46”When I first applied for admission to PCOM, Dr. Cipolla was a member of the interview committee. He asked me only one question: ‘Do you know who invented spaghetti?’ And I said, ‘No.’ ‘Well,’ he told me, ‘the Chinese actually invented spaghetti, not the Italians.’ And that was the extent of our interaction. … The next time I saw him was in the fall of 1977, in my first anatomy lecture held in Evans Hall. His opening line was, ‘You gotta know your anatomy, boy, or the guy down the street will.’… The anatomy lab was at 48th and Spruce Streets, where the old hospital used to be. The anatomy lab was almost like an attic, with the smell of formaldehyde everywhere. It had a great feel to it. … You had to wear a tie, which on the surface seems absurd. But I think in part the reason was Dr. Cipolla’s profound respect for the people who had donated their bodies to medical science. In my kind of rebellious way, I would wear a flannel shirt with a tie. One day, early on, Dr. Cipolla just kind of looked at me and grinned, and then that was it. … In anatomy lab, you have partners, you’d be helping each other out. And every once in a while, I’d turn around and, over my shoulder, he’d be there, listening. … I loved anatomy. I would often go down to the lab on Saturdays. Dr. Cipolla asked me one day, ‘Why are you here all the time?’ I said, ‘It’s a chance to have the cadaver all to myself. I don’t have to share it with my lab partners.’ He got a kick out of that. … Over the course of time, he’d walk around during lab, and he’d ask one table an anatomy question, and if they didn’t get it, he’d say, ‘Hey, Feldstein. You know the answer.’ So we had this mutual respect, an intellectual understanding. … He was a general surgeon in the Medical Corp and he would throw in tidbits, with clinical correlation, during anatomy lectures—practical examples of what you were learning. … He could be difficult; he was as eccentric as they come—definitely the type of individual you either loved or hated. Had I struggled in anatomy, it might not have been as much fun. But he was brilliant.”

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Camille DiLullo, PhD

As told by Cierra Lewis, MS/Biomed ’16, DO ’18, MEd

PCOM anatomy professor Camille DiLullo, PhD”I got to know Dr. DiLullo first when I was in the biomedical sciences program. She was like a mother to me at PCOM. And there were some striking similarities to my own mom in that they’ve both experienced hardships in their lives, gone through a lot of things, but that’s never been an excuse for them to stop or to stall. You just keep moving forward. She was an amazing woman, and when she passed away, it was like losing a confidant and a best friend. … Dr. DiLullo was maybe five feet tall, quite petite. She was grace and mercy and strength and beauty. Being a woman in medicine, a woman in a mostly male academic department for a very long time, she had to speak up. If something needed to be addressed, she was going to address it. She thought things through and wasn’t going to change her mind. … At times, I questioned her decisions, and she just looked at me, and I thought, ‘Okay, I’ll go ahead and do the work instead of questioning what you’re telling me to do.’ She was trying to convey to me, ‘I know it’s getting rough, but you’ve got to push through.’ And that’s what I needed. … The number one thing Dr. DiLullo cared about was the person. She conveyed that to us, when we became medical students, always stressing how your patients come first. … As an educator and researcher, she was demanding, yet, she was very patient. So she touched a lot of us as mentees because you knew that even though she was pushing you, it’s because she cared about you. … When I was an osteopathic medical student, she helped me start the nonprofit Medicine for Education to teach high-school girls from underserved communities how to get into medical school and succeed once they get there. She was unyielding in her commitment to training and mentoring women and inspired my work. … We also shared a love of fashion, and looking your best and presenting your best to the world. She always did. Dr. DiLullo commanded the whole room—and she was the smallest thing in there.”

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William Gilhool, DO

As told by Kristen Berry, DO '00, Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine

Legendary PCOM professor and doctor William Gilhool, DO”I’ve been at the Lancaster Healthcare Center now for going on 19 years. When I first came, in 2003, Dr. Gilhool was one of the doctors here, and working with him was just such a pleasure. He is a great doctor, with a really good bedside manner. He’s been retired for three or four years, and the patients still want to know how he’s doing. … He was originally a gastroenterologist, and you don’t always see a specialist who is able to transition back to primary care. For him, it was a no-brainer. … Dr. Gilhool is very down to earth, very personable. He is probably the best storyteller I’ve ever met. Students would gather around and listen to him talk about his hospital days, his intern days, everything he’d seen when he was in practice. He can talk to anybody about anything. … He is a great teacher. He was very much into stopping and making sure students really understood the whole picture, the whole patient. The students loved it and got so much out of it. … Our offices were right across from each other. We got to know each other personally, and we could see each other’s patients without there being any lapse in care. … He relied on me for some things, like the newer technologies, and I relied on him in terms of his experience, the political ins and outs, that kind of thing. He would leave it to me to draw my own conclusions, because he always joked that I had a lot of guts and wasn’t easily intimidated. He was like that, too. He’d always say, ‘To thine own self be true.’… His father had been a prominent OB/GYN physician in North Philadelphia who early on had a stroke, and his mother, a nurse, had to take care of the father. So he had some adversity in his childhood and didn’t go right into medicine. He went to medical school at Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Missouri, and when he first started working here, he probably felt a bit like an outsider. … Remembering his relationships with the students always reminds me to stop for a minute. We’re so fast-paced here at the center and trying to do so much at once. Dr. Gilhool always took the time to get to know the students, to talk to them about their aspirations—not just in medicine but in the rest of their lives.”

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Charlotte H. Greene, PhD

As told by Mindy George-Weinstein, PhD, Chief Research and Science Officer, PCOM

Legendary PCOM faculty member Charlotte H. Greene, PhD”Soon after I came to PCOM in 1989, I was asked to serve on a committee to revise the faculty handbook and develop a tenure policy. Charlotte Greene was the chair of the committee, which also included Michael Venditto, DO [now professor and chair, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine]. We had a big job to do. … Charlotte was very knowledgeable about the multiple roles of faculty in an academic environment. I enjoyed watching her pause for reflection, and if she didn’t have an immediate response, she’d dig for information and come back to the table with advice for us. She worked extremely hard in this task and in everything she did. … When Charlotte spoke, everybody listened. She was never pedantic and always kept an open mind for the opinions of others. … In her role as educator, Charlotte was responsible for teaching muscle physiology to our Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine and Master's in Biomedical Sciences students. I went to her lectures because this was my area of research. Her goal was to present this conceptually challenging material in a way that students would readily understand and would help them appreciate the relevance to the principles and practice of osteopathic medicine. She encouraged students to ask questions and made them feel that they had identified gaps in our knowledge. … Where Charlotte really shined was in her research laboratory. She was a terrific and imaginative scientist. Her favorite role was mentoring students in the research process, and they flocked to her lab to be a part of her projects. … She was a pioneer in research involving tissue regeneration. Charlotte’s work was recognized by a company that contracted with her to test compounds for their effects on wound healing in a model she developed. She also provided opportunities for surgeons to learn how to perform laparoscopic cholecystectomy in the early days of minimally invasive procedures. … Charlotte was always thoughtful and never boastful. Although she was passionate about all things academic, she could see both sides of an issue. She loved PCOM and stood behind the difficult decision to sell our hospital for the good of the College. … I had so much respect for her as a colleague and an individual. I miss her a lot. She touched the lives of many of our students.”

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David Heilig, DO '44, MsC (Ost.), FAAO

As told by Alexander S. Nicholas, DO ’75, FAAO dist., Professor and Chair, Department of Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine

Legendary PCOM professor David Heilig, DO '44, MsC (Ost.), FAAO”Dr. Heilig was my colleague and my mentor. But when I met him for the first time, I was in seventh grade in my T-shirt and tighty-whities, waiting to get my physical for football. Dr. Heilig told me to turn my head to the side and cough. … Basically, because of my father [Nicholas S. Nicholas, DO, FAAO], I grew up with him. He was a really important figure in our lives, kind of like a member of the family. But I could never call him Dave; it was ‘Dr. Dave’ or ‘Doc Dave.’ … I didn’t see him much while I was in medical school. But when my father was hired full-time to chair what’s now the OMM department, the first thing he did was hire Dr. Heilig as his vice chair. That was 1974. And in 1977, I joined the department full-time: it was my father, Dr. Heilig and me. … My father was a very social, extroverted guy—he was a volcano. And if Dr. Heilig had been like him, it wouldn’t have worked. They were opposites; they blended perfectly together. Dr. Heilig was a tectonic plate that moved very quietly. … He was one of the most intelligent, widely educated men I’ve ever met. He was a writer. He could paint and sculpt. He played the cello and bass violin. He was a football player and a diver on the swim team at Swarthmore College. … Dr. Heilig was probably the most deeply thinking osteopathic physician, as well as osteopathic manipulative medicine physician, teaching osteopathic principles and practice. … He was a gentleman and a gentle man—a Quaker, a very spiritual man. I never heard him say anything loud or nasty about anybody. He stood up for his beliefs very strongly, but he did it in a way that was kind and well-thought-out. … Dr. Heilig was what the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator would call an advocate. He helped everybody—he’d put his hands on the students’ hands and take them through the maneuvers. … My father used to say that Dr. Heilig was the greatest manipulative tactician he’d ever seen. And my father was pretty good. … When Dr. Heilig retired, I think that was the only time the American Academy of Osteopathy honored someone with an entire day of lectures, just on him. He was loved by the entire osteopathic profession.”

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Dan and Jimmy Jeter

As told in their own words

Moultrie area real estate developers Dan and Jimmy Jeter”We acquired 130 acres of land in Moultrie, Colquitt County, right in the center of Southwest Georgia. We donated 30 acres, and kept the remaining 100, and the College built and opened PCOM South Georgia in 2019. There is the potential for growth; you could have housing on the back half, where you get a nice residential feel, with a spring-fed lake and a creek and pine trees and native grasses. There’s a whole lot of wildlife back there too: deer, quail, turkey; they all make their home in this little rolling area in the bottomland. … As real estate developers, we understand the need for medical buildings in Moultrie. We have a development on 15 acres less than a mile to the south of PCOM South Georgia, right by the hospital. The building started out with one OB/GYN practice, and now we have nine medical buildings there. It was a very positive investment experience, and it gave us the sense of the possibilities if we were to have a school to educate physicians and other healthcare professionals on the tract of land. … We believed that having a medical school here would be good for the health of South Georgia. National statistics show that when health professionals finish their training, they often settle within 50 or 60 miles of their place of training for the duration of their career. That’s proved true for the first classes; the majority of those who graduate from PCOM South Georgia plan to stay in Southwest Georgia. … We’re a rural county with poultry processing, cotton, peanuts, soybeans, corn. Our economy is split between agribusiness, government, manufacturing and retail. Our YMCA has been around for 100 years, our arts center is second to none for a community of our size, and our diving facility has attracted Olympians who come here to train. … People are coming to Southwest Georgia. About 50 percent of our high school graduating classes return to Colquitt County to live and work. They recognize the great quality of life. They desire to live and raise their children here. … We’re so glad that PCOM came into the region with the self-interest of educating healthcare professionals and the shared interest of improving health care for Georgians. The College wanted to make Moultrie a better community, and they certainly have. We are honored to be part of the PCOM story.”

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Tage Kvist, PhD

As told by Michael P. McGuinness, PhD, Professor of Anatomy, Department of Bio-Medical Sciences, PCOM

Tage Kvist, PhD”Dr. Kvist was part of the reason I agreed to transition from pharmaceutical research back into academia. I had been out of the teaching environment for probably a decade, so I was nervous. He was a great mentor, able to advise without critiquing my personal style. … Understanding how to present a dissected specimen to students on an exam might seem straightforward, but there’s an art to it. And Dr. Kvist was able to guide me and others to make sure we were assessing students in a fair but appropriate manner. When I started here at PCOM, he had us sit down as a department and go through every question on a written exam to make sure the scientific content was accurate. That was his level of commitment to the reputation of the courses. … He was the first chair of the Department of Bio-Medical Sciences and was instrumental in helping a diverse group of faculty integrate into one umbrella group—able to navigate different personalities, and different courses and requirements, and bringing us together so that we worked cohesively. … Throughout all of this, he was very humble. He wasn’t looking for recognition. He just did the work he did, including his work as one of the earliest educators to begin plastinating biological specimens for teaching purposes, and he was proud of the work he did. He had been at PCOM for 39 years when he retired. … Dr. Kvist had a very dry sense of humor, and it was incorporated into every one of his lectures, but very rarely did you hear students laughing. Later, though, students would tell me, ‘I listened to his lecture again, and he’s really funny!’ His humor was so subtle that, in the moment, you could miss the nuances. … One thing that endeared him to students was that he spent unscheduled hours helping them in the anatomy lab. Medical students took gross anatomy as their first course, and a lot of times they were overwhelmed by volume. He probably helped countless students get through that first term over his years here. … As a mentor, he gave me a perspective on caring about students and the job that we’re supposed to be doing: trying our best to make sure that they’re successful.”

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Robert Meals, DO '56

As told by Kenneth J. Veit, DO ’76, MBA, FACOFP, Provost, Senior Vice President

Legendary PCOM professor Robert Meals, DO '56”Bob was my teacher and my colleague. As a teacher, he was brilliant. Yet, I don’t think he ever recognized his own genius—how he informed his art with fresh perspective, sage advice and a hint of silliness. … On the first day of class, we were thrown into a big auditorium. During the course of his radiology presentation, Bob would put up someone’s picture on that big screen and ask us to answer his clinical question. We usually had no idea what he was talking about. Perhaps that was our first reality check: ‘Boy, we’re really in medical school now.’ But very quickly, we realized that he was not concerned about our answers. He was more focused on creating an encouraging educational environment, in every class, to take away some of our paranoia about making a mistake. The wisdom of his teaching was understanding that only when you let go do you open yourself up to learn. … Years later, I was fortunate to have an office very close to where he taught the third-year students. There was a mandatory radiology clerkship; you had to experience Bob regardless of whether you wanted to be a radiologist or a family doctor or an internist. During the first week, it was kind of quiet in that classroom. By the beginning of the second week, you’d hear laughter, singing, all kinds of shenanigans. He had puppets; he was Mister Rogers before Mister Rogers. He would have the students whistling, humming, playing guitars, doing skits. … What could be more embarrassing than standing in front of your peers and singing? But once you got over that embarrassment, you opened yourself up to learning. … Bob hasn’t been with us for a number of years; he passed away in 2005. But hospital administrators—across the state and region—still tell me they can identify PCOM grads because they’re not intimidated by reading images and films. They never have that deer-in-a-headlight look. They know logically how to look through the film, look at the soft tissue, the anatomical components. … Bob won teaching awards over and over again. … He told me, ‘This is how I enjoy teaching.’ The excitement, the enthusiasm, the energy that he created in his classroom came back to him, made him more spirited and more inclined to give. … Even when he got sick at the end, he never retired. His enjoyment of teaching actually penetrated the classroom. You can pick that up as a student. If the teacher is excited about being in front of you, that goes a long way.”

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Jason O'Neal, PharmD '14

As told by Eddie Williams, PharmD ’14

Jason O’Neal, PharmD ’14”Our favorite hangout was the study room. That’s where you’d often find Jason, James [Lindsay, PharmD ’14] and me, cracking jokes while perusing our pharmacology books. More than a few times, Jason retreated there on his own to lie on the floor and to pray the pain of sickle cell anemia away—once in the middle of an exam. … Our study room now bears Jason’s name, dedicated in loving memory to my best friend and fellow graduate of PCOM’s inaugural PharmD class, a lasting tribute to Jason Walton O’Neal’s grit, gumption and sly smile I’d do anything to see again. … Complications from sickle cell disease took Jason from us on August 12, 2016, too young at age 35 and only two years after he’d accomplished his goal of becoming a pharmacist, which at times seemed like an impossible dream when you consider the many health obstacles he had to overcome during those four years. … Jason was the first person I met at PCOM Georgia. We showed up for our pharmacy school interviews together in 2010, nervous and excited and hoping we’d be accepted into the school. You know how you meet someone for the first time, but you sense you’ve met before? That’s how it was with Jason and me. Turns out, we had graduated a year apart from Southwest DeKalb High School some 10 years before our paths crossed again. … The truth is, I didn’t know how sick Jason really was—nor did his other classmates or professors. Jason kept his illness private and didn’t want anyone’s pity. The only outward signs of his disability were a limp in his right leg from a childhood stroke that many mistook for a strut, turned-in fingers on his left hand and his tall (6 foot), slender (130-pound) frame. … Yet it was hard not to notice all the classes Jason missed while hospitalized with repeated bouts of pneumonia. ‘Sicklers’ are susceptible to lung infections. ‘You were in the hospital?’ classmates would ask when he’d reappear on campus. ‘Man, this is normal for me,’ was all he’d say. … That was the thing about Jason. He just kept on resisting, persisting and never, ever giving up despite his punishingly cruel and relentlessly unforgiving illness. … It’s tough not having him here—in our daily text messages, at Atlanta Falcons games and at my sons’ birthday parties—but Jason continues to inspire and amaze me, just as I hope he does for future PCOM School of Pharmacy students.”

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Nicholas C. Pedano, DO '61, FACOS

As told by Pat Lannutti, DO '71, MSc, Professor and Chair, Division of General Internal Medicine

Legendary PCOM faculty member Nicholas C. Pedano, DO '61, FACOS”Nick Pedano was my guide and counselor—and also my cousin. My grandmother was a Pedano. … When I decided I wanted to go to PCOM, Nick wrote a letter for me. Later, when I had a little trouble with anatomy, Nick talked to his close friend Angus Cathie [then chair of the department]. …Nick wanted me to be a surgeon, even though I said, ‘Nick, I’m not good with my hands.’ … I remember one case, the second operation was 12 hours. I’m short, so I had to stand on a stool, and I said, ‘Maybe it’s better if I pass out.’ After it was over and we were taking the gloves off, I said, ‘Cuz, this is not for me.’ He said, ‘All right. You’re going to go into internal medicine.’ … Nick could order you to do something and you did it, and then— ‘Wait a minute, what am I doing?’ … The whole family had a commanding presence. Surgeons have to be commanding, and they have to give orders, but they get away with more if the iron fist has a velvet glove. … There were two parts of Nick’s personality. He was friendly, and he was bossy—but he had a nice way about him. … He had a house down the shore in Margate, right by the ocean, and he would have a party every year for the interns and for the residents, a beautiful affair. He would wine and dine them because he appreciated what they did for him. And he developed relationships all the way up the line. That was the social Nick. In the operating room, he took no hostages, because he had to get things done the way he wanted them done. … As chairman of surgery, Nick led the way to the growth of PCOM by example. He had a massive service, with tons of patients. He went all over the place to nurture family doctors. … The people who worked with him were indefatigable and inextinguishable. The College is to a large degree where it is because of his absolutely brilliant energy. … From Nick, I saw that leadership is not totally dictatorial or totally social. It’s a good mixture of both. So I try to achieve that balance with my house staff. Yes, we work hard. When it comes time for me to be the boss, they look at me as the boss. But then I’ll say, ‘Okay, it’s five o’clock, let’s go over to the Hilton.’ ”

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Joanne Pieringer, PhD

As told by Ruth Thornton, PhD, Professor Emerita

JoAnne Pieringer, PhD”When I started teaching at PCOM, I listened to tapes that students had made of JoAnne’s lectures. It was so easy to follow her. JoAnne was a very good teacher. … She always had a smile. I remember giving one lecture when I had just started teaching. Those lecture rooms are huge, holding about 270 people. And there she was in the audience, near the front. At one point when I looked up, she had the best smile on her face. It was such a wonderful thing to see. … JoAnne was probably about five foot four or five, with short, straight hair and looked like she would be no-nonsense. And in some cases she was; she was a strong woman. But really, she was just fun. She never got frustrated with me, with students, with anybody. Students loved her! … When JoAnne met Barbara [now Dr. Thornton’s spouse] and me, we were a couple. We remember going to events and how welcoming she was of both of us. She was always interested in people. … JoAnne’s field was lipids—so was her husband’s [Ronald Pieringer, PhD, was Dr. Thornton’s professor when she was a doctoral student at Temple University]—and that’s not my favorite subject. So she and I complemented each other intellectually. … JoAnne had her own research. But when Dr. Mochan [Eugene Mochan, PhD, DO ’77, then department chair] was there, he had a particular research project in molecular biology he wanted the department to do. JoAnne was able to shift gears on this ongoing project. She was a kind of gung-ho type of person: ‘I’m just going to jump in here, and I’m going to do it. And I’m going to enjoy it.’… I became the chair of the department after Dr. Mochan stepped down. I found that a lot of my ideas about how to approach students and how to manage people had come from JoAnne. We only overlapped for perhaps two years before she passed away, and I didn’t realize at the time how much I was getting from her. There was no expectation of her being my mentor; it just happened. …When she died, Dr. Mochan, Dr. Ruth Borghaei and I set up a scholarship fund in JoAnne’s name, along with a brick laid in the Donor Garden outside Evans Hall.”

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Edna K. Williams, DO 1926

PCOM alum and Black female osteopathic physician Edna K. Williams, DO 1926On May 18, 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its Plessy v. Ferguson ruling, which upheld the constitutionality of racial segregation laws within the “separate but equal” doctrine. That was the world Edna D. Kennedy had been born into just five weeks prior. As an African American, she would face challenges in a society that did not offer separate but equal opportunities into the medical profession. Not only would her race limit her access to medical schools; so, too, would her gender. Despite the odds, this native Philadelphian—known as Edna K. Williams, DO, throughout her career—would follow in the footsteps of Meta L. Christy, DO 1921, as PCOM’s second African American alumna and a role model for the community and other Black medical professionals.

At the turn of the 20th century, the Kennedy family resided at 625 Pine Street, then an African American and immigrant neighborhood. Edna, the daughter of a laborer, was the eldest of three. By 1910, the family, including one grandmother, moved into a two-story row house in South Philadelphia. Edna attended Philadelphia High School for Girls, followed by a practical education at the Derrick Shorthand School of Philadelphia. Stenography was a reasonable career expectation for a Black woman of her times—and, as it turned out, not a bad skill to have for taking notes as a medical student!

But before medical school came marriage, a baby, a divorce and another marriage, all between 1918 and 1920. Husband Dayton H. C. Wilson, a bellman and, in later years, a physician, spent part of their newlywed year on active duty for World War I. While he was deployed, daughter Phylomina was born. By 1920, the estranged couple was living a block apart—with their respective parents—and Edna Kennedy was employed as a stenographer for a fraternal society. In August 1920, she married Alphonzo L. Williams, a chauffer from the District of Columbia, and this time took her husband’s name.

Turpy, the treatment guru

As the 1920s roared, this wife and mother hunkered down for life as a medical student, matriculating at PCOM’s Spring Garden Street location in 1922. Classmates came to know her as “Turpy.” Comments published in the PCOM Synapsis yearbook hint at her drive and perseverance. In 1925: “We have naught but praises for this young lady as she pioneers in this great science. She exhibits great pluck in carrying on.” And, in 1926:

I see here none other than Edna Williams, hard at work over a new demonstrating machine which enables the beginner to locate lesions by a crier which says “that’s it” or “no, you’re wrong.” Edna has tried many models, as may be seen by looking around, but this machine is no doubt “the” one.

At age 30, Dr. Williams graduated from PCOM, one of 18 women and the only African American woman in her class. 

Dr. Williams started a family practice in a rented three-story row house in Philadelphia’s Brewerytown neighborhood. She also opened an office in New Jersey. She kept fees very low, particularly to make health care affordable during the Great Depression. By 1935, husband Alphonzo had returned to Washington. Dr. Williams and Phylomina relocated to 219 East Upsal Street (East Mt. Airy), where she ran her family practice that included delivering babies, sometimes in the middle of the night. Patients referred to her as “the treatment guru.”

Although small in stature—barely five feet tall—Dr. Williams had a stool to stand on and strong therapeutic hands to perform osteopathic manipulative treatment. Valerie Griffin, who later worked with Dr. Williams at Gemedco Medical Center in Germantown, recalls how “She surprised a lot of the 200- to 250-pound men who came for treatment and manipulation with the strength of her hands.”

A call to minister

While Dr. Williams healed patients physically with her hands, by 1945, she was applying her religious convictions to minister in other ways. Dr. Williams was affiliated with the Third Christian Scientist denomination as a lecturer and teacher. She orated about pathways to spiritual, mental, financial and physical health by channeling God’s healing life currents; she also discussed reincarnation. One could say she exemplified a holistic approach to medicine. Dr. Williams established a chapel on the second floor of a brownstone at 2307 North Broad Street, where she conducted free weekly lectures, sometimes four times each Sunday.

By 1949, a growing following likely led Dr. Williams to relocate her chapel to 902 Walnut Street and expand her ministry to “Dr. Edna K. Williams Associates.” Her program spread beyond Philadelphia to bases in Baltimore, New York, and Washington, DC, and advertisements for her lectures appeared in Pittsburgh newspapers in the mid-1950s.

In her spare time, Dr. Williams enjoyed singing, which she combined with community service. She belonged to the Western Helpers’ Club, which sang Christmas carols to patients at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She also performed for a Germantown flower club.

Not the retiring type

When Dr. Williams retired from private practice, she did not stay in retirement for long. William M. King, DO ’62, who established the Gemedco Medical Center in 1976, convinced Dr. Williams to come out of retirement to work at the community medical center. She started off working one day a week, seeing 20 to 25 patients a day. Eventually, she slowed down to one morning a week and five to six patients—still a remarkable effort given that she was approaching 90.

In 1989, Dr. Williams retired for good at age 92. That same year, PCOM established a scholarship in her name to assist minority and ethnic students. She suffered a stroke and the loss of her daughter before passing away on September 28, 1993. Ms. Griffin remembers Dr. Williams as

quiet and soft spoken, but firm, and a very warm and kind-hearted spirit. She was always willing to share her knowledge of perseverance—going through medical school, how hard it was as a woman and a woman of color. She was very much a role model, encouraging others to keep striving and persevere.

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Daniel L. Wisely, DO, FACOS, LLD (Hon.)

As told by H. William Craver III, DO '87, FACOS, Professor of Surgery; Dean and Chief Academic Officer, Osteopathic Medical Program, PCOM South Georgia

Legendary PCOM professor Daniel L. Wisely, DO, FACOS, LLD (Hon.)”Daniel Wisely was a very special gentleman. He came into a profession that was often, and still sometimes is, stigmatized as being rude or blunt. But he was so open, sincere, caring. … Yes, you had to work hard. You had to always be at your best. You had to bring a hundred percent, all the time. But he also recognized the sacrifices of the profession to your personal life, to your family. … I can remember him walking around the hospital, and something might be a bit ajar, and he’d take a moment to help out housekeeping, or pause while a nurse was with a patient rather than come in with a bluster. … When I was a resident in surgery, there weren’t that many of us, and you might be unable to get any time off. He’d say, ‘I’ll cover for you. I got this. You need to go home; you’ve been on for three weeks in a row.’… He was a consummate surgeon. I don’t think I ever saw him falter or sweat. He called himself a little country doctor, but his skills were just phenomenal. He had these big hands but such a subtle touch. … He was proud of all his residents and graduates, and of their successes over time. He had an ability to see not only people’s potential, but to take the next step of saying, ‘What can I do to help?’ … He wouldn’t let you in real close to him personally; he was a quiet and private man. But you knew he really cared. … He always made the time when the time was necessary. He just seemed to know. He had a great skillset of people understanding—listening, interpreting, getting to the bottom of something, not just reacting in a moment in time. Today, you can read all the books on management, but this was another era. How did he do it? … If I’m going into a difficult situation, whether to talk to a family about a loved one who is maybe going to pass, or to have a difficult conversation about something at work, I often think about the demeanor that he drew upon. And so it’s more than ‘What would Dan do?’—of course, we never would have called him Dan!—but ‘Without losing himself, how did he find the space to give everyone their due, their necessary attention? What was the essence?’”

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