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Women Who Lead
Kristie Petree, DO ’13

Assistant Professor of Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine and OMM Site Director, PCOM South Georgia
Moultrie, Georgia

Headshot photograph of Kristie Petree, DO ’13“My passion for teaching began during my matriculation at PCOM Georgia when I was selected as one of the inaugural osteopathic undergraduate teaching scholars. This passion grew throughout my residency and led to a career in academia where I could continue teaching and provide patient care. It was an honor to return to my alma mater as an assistant professor in the Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine Department. This year, I accepted a new post as OMM site director at PCOM South Georgia. ... When I left my former post, the students threw me a going-away party. I received cards with messages, including, ‘It’s so encouraging to see a young mom in medicine.’ This happened when I left a previous job as well. I never thought my experiences would be something worth sharing, but after reading these letters from students, I understand they are. The truth is, being a doctor is hard, and it is hard for women. Female physicians who are just starting out in their careers often face harsh criticism when they decide to have children. There never seems to be a good time. A leave of absence during residency can yield resentment and unfair treatment; time off for pregnancy following residency can impact choice of specialty, fellowship, academic positioning, even job opportunities. I have had so many students come to me and ask, ‘When is the right time to start a family?’ or ‘How do I navigate medical school/residency during pregnancy?’ Instead of being able to celebrate the excitement of starting or adding to a family, these women are worried about how it will impact exam schedules, residency interviews, graduating on time, etc. There are limited resources for these women and their families. I’ve known three medical students who went into labor during exams. One had her water break. She cleaned up and came back to finish the exam. ... Personally and professionally, I have experienced that there is a gross misunderstanding of maternity leave. Maternity leave is time for the mother to physically recover from childbirth, which is agreed to be one of the most physically painful experiences there is. She has to physically and emotionally recover and bond with a new infant; she is sent home from the hospital within a day or two of giving birth to wake up every two to three hours for feedings. This is a far cry from a ‘vacation’ and most certainly not a time to receive work calls ‘to check your email.’ ... Throughout medical training, you are told early on that medicine is your life, your choice—that you always must put your patients’ needs first. It is this way of thinking that leads to physician burnout. We are trained that our needs do not matter, when in fact, they do. If you aren’t healthy, how can you take care of anyone else? ... I strive to be a resource and an advocate for women in health care. As women in medicine, we have to take care of ourselves and each other.”