PCOM Graduate Kristine Smalls, PsyD ‘22, Surprised by Billboard
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It’s a Sign: Graduate Sees Her Name in Lights

August 31, 2022

Kristine Smalls, PsydD '22, poses with her billoboardFor many, if not most, new grads from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM), the transition from medical school into their chosen career paths is usually filled with excitement and enthusiasm, perhaps even some trepidation. For one recent Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) student, it was mostly shock and surprise.

Kristine Smalls, PsyD ‘22, knew her mother had a tendency to go over the top with her celebrations. “She typically goes above and beyond for me and my brother whenever we, like, have any type of accomplishment,” Smalls said in a recent interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer. “She kind of outdoes herself each time.” She wasn’t expecting that this year the surprise would be literally over top of Route 130 in South Jersey in the form of a digital billboard with her name and face shining bright for the passing motorists below.

Since the story first appeared in late July, it has gone viral and gained national attention with Smalls and her mom appearing on Good Morning America, among nearly 230 other media outlets and publications. Though typically reserved, Smalls has taken the attention in stride. “It has been a great experience and such a positive one for my community,” she shared. “I am enjoying having everyone see it and know what’s possible, even if you are from an urban community like Camden.”

Kristine Smalls, PsydD '22, in graduation regaliaThough Smalls feels like the story is as much about her mother as it is about her, it’s also about showing young people in her neighborhood what they can accomplish. “I think it’s resonated because it’s a beautiful display of a mother’s unconditional love,” she said. “It’s also a story about an African American woman becoming a part of the 4% of African American psychologists in the United States, and more specifically, for my community to see me as a role model and an example for many of the people there.”

Smalls hopes to use the attention she’s received to one day become a motivational speaker. “For the kids in my community and to share my full story,” she said. The next step, though, is a post-doc with Springfield Psychological’s REACH program working with at-risk youth. Smalls also has advice for any students whose parents might be planning something similar: “Soak it all in and celebrate your accomplishment big,” she said. “This is real life! You did it!”

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    For the past 125 years, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) has trained thousands of highly competent, caring physicians, health practitioners and behavioral scientists who practice a “whole person” approach to care—treating people, not just symptoms. PCOM, a private, not-for-profit accredited institution of higher education, operates three campuses (PCOM, PCOM Georgia and PCOM South Georgia) and offers doctoral degrees in clinical psychology, educational psychology, osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy, and school psychology. The college also offers graduate degrees in applied behavior analysis, applied positive psychology, biomedical sciences, forensic medicine, medical laboratory science, mental health counseling, physician assistant studies, and school psychology. PCOM students learn the importance of health promotion, research, education and service to the community. Through its community-based Healthcare Centers, PCOM provides care to medically underserved populations. For more information, visit pcom.edu or call 215-871-6100.

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