The Longest-Tenured Dean | Kenneth J. Veit, DO ’76 | PCOM
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The Longest-Tenured Dean 
Kenneth J. Veit, DO ’76, MBA, FACOFP

February 16, 2023
By Jennifer Schaffer Leone

Kenneth J. Veit, DO ’76, MBA, FACOFPIn June, Kenneth J. Veit, DO ’76, MBA, FACOFP, announced that he was relinquishing his role as dean after determinedly leading his alma mater through three decades, meaningfully shaping the osteopathic profession.

His was the longest deanship in the College’s history, spanning 30 years from 1992 to 2022. His deanship is likewise the longest in osteopathic history, according to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine.

Dr. Veit, who will retain his title of provost and senior vice president of academic affairs and continue as a family medicine professor and clinical provider, sat down with the editor of Digest Magazine to reflect on this historic distinction, offering wisdom and wit. His thoughts are especially apt as the College moves toward its 125th anniversary.

May Your Sails Be Taut (But Not Too Taut)

“There is always a bit of a schism between an institution’s history, growth and need for change. As dean, you manage, in many ways, the forward motion. This act requires balancing the dynamic tension between academic and administrative leadership, priorities and goals.

The work is akin to sailing. The challenge is the tensioning of the sail. The sail must be taut enough so that the luff is not flapping, but not so taut that the wind is blowing against one side, making the boat heel over. All of this occurs in constantly changing waters.

Positioning your sail requires resiliency. The deanship requires adaptability. It requires sensitivity, diplomacy and a commitment to finding commonality. In both cases, you must check your arrogance at the dock.

Maneuvering 30 years of internal and external challenges confronting medical education has been exciting. PCOM stands on the shoulders of many great leaders. Our College has seen stability and success; there have also been times of sacrifice. We must continue to be resilient, to be creative and challenge ourselves as the healthcare environment ever advances. PCOM is well positioned to lead into the future if we remember who we are. We have to be comfortable in our skin.”

The White Coat Keeps Your Perspective

Kenneth J. Veit, DO, MBA, FACOFP“I started my medical career in the National Health Service Corp working in Orbisonia, a rural community located in the borough of Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania. As a young physician, caring for an underserved healthcare community appealed to my altruistic senses. Through the experience, I acquired the broad-based knowledge of a generalist and the flexibility to address the unexpected. I was also able to interface with and teach many medical students while on this assignment.

I pledged early on to enjoy the humanity of my patients and vowed to meet my patients where they are. My white coat continues to remind me of the importance of being humble and making human connections.

My consistent but limited clinical role during my deanship has been vital. It allows me to experience—firsthand—the struggles of the College’s faculty and graduates delivering direct care, to taste the complexity of the evolving delivery system. It also helps me to better collaborate efforts to integrate education, research and clinical care. I have never seen myself as a dean-figurehead; I have always wanted faculty and students to recognize that I understand their work and I do it alongside them.

Perhaps, most important, has been the access my white coat has given me. Wearing it, I meet real PCOM students in the clinics. As dean, you often encounter the students at the extremes. But the best way to know the mainstream students—90 percent of the student body—is in the clinics.”

The Osteopathic Quotient

Kenneth J. Veit, DO, MBA, FACOFP“During the past three decades, osteopathic physicians have increasingly assimilated into mainstream medicine. Many DOs no longer employ the consistent practice of OMT (often because of reimbursement barriers and many other factors). For younger physicians, a single accreditation system for graduate medical education further amalgamates the professions and confounds identities.

Yet I have ascertained, perhaps retrospectively, that it is what I call our OQ or Osteopathic Quotient that makes—and will always make—our profession unique. One’s OQ is not defined by a modality or procedure. Rather, it is defined by how DOs—regardless of discipline or specialty—interact with patients as a whole and in accord with our osteopathic tenets.

OQ is embedded in how one thinks. It is physically manifested in one’s knowledge of and respect for the musculoskeletal system. DOs are educated with the mandate of touch. It is what we do naturally. It is the context for our clinical reasoning.

A surgeon reaching for a patient’s hand before going into the OR is so rare in today’s realm of medicine, but not if the physician is a DO …

Touch is a primal and powerful act. It is an affective aspect of care. Touch is a form of connection, an expression of presence. And this connection—between a DO and patient—is trust. No matter what else medicine tries to substitute, hands on the patient is essential.”

Essential Qualities of a Dean

Kenneth J. Veit, DO, MBA, FACOFP“A dean must be first and foremost, authentic. You must bring your whole self to the job. You must participate fully—and with empathy, patience and humor.

You must prioritize the pressure and seek proper perspective. You must understand enough to know that you don’t have the answer for everything (practice as a generalist clinician who is willing to call in the specialists, find the resources).

You must pick your battles carefully and try your best not to take the issues home with you.

You must be cognizant of your role while understanding that you are not the most important person in the room; you are one of many. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts and a college is a special community.

You must appreciate each day—feel blessed and grateful—for the opportunity to serve in this unique role.”

About Digest Magazine

Digest, the magazine for alumni and friends of Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, is published by the Office of Marketing and Communications. The magazine reports on osteopathic and other professional trends of interest to alumni of the College’s Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) and graduate programs at PCOM, PCOM Georgia and PCOM South Georgia.