Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) has announced Kathleen E. Ackert (DO ’20) as the recipient of the Mason Pressly Memorial Medal. The award is presented to a student for his or her outstanding achievement and service to the College, the community and the osteopathic profession. Recipients are selected by representatives of the overall College community. Ms. Ackert will receive her medal at PCOM’s Founders’ Day Awards Ceremony on Friday, January 24.
Ms. Ackert has made storytelling part of her medical education, and plans to make it part of her medical practice when she starts her career as an obstetrician/gynecologist. She embraces an approach called “narrative medicine,” which uses stories about clinical practice, research and patients experiences as a way to promote healing. She got her start while a first-year medical student in Philadelphia at a live event sponsored by The Moth Radio Hour, a public radio show that features stories of personal experiences.
At The Moth’s New York City Grand Slam in Brooklyn in September 2019, she told the story of her last day on her ob/gyn rotation, when she performed her first solo vaginal delivery. She talked about her fears, the possible complications of delivering a premature baby, and details of childbirth in the delivery room. Then you heard her clear, serene voice as she took charge, and welcomed the child into the world. It was an audible threshold crossing from student to doctor: “Yes, I can do this!”
Ms. Ackert has performed her unscripted medical stories a dozen times, including the tale about her first Code Green during her rotation in psychiatry that won the December 2018 Story Slam event in Manhattan. A story about her experience in the gross anatomy lab with the cadaver whom she called "The Professor" appeared in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. A story about physician handwriting was published in February by the Philadelphia Inquirer, alongside a picture of Ms. Ackert with her father, an anesthesiologist whose penmanship can be tough to decipher.
“Storytelling is so integral to medicine,” says Ms. Ackert, whose art earned her the post of president of the Gold Humanism Honor Society. “We are always piecing together a narrative, and each illness can have several chapters.”
A native of Long Island, she, found that writing was a way to document the mind-opening experiences during her medical school studies, especially in the beginning. Further engaging empathy—from writing to practice—Ms. Ackert, a regarded student leader, created Teaching Introductory Study Skills Utilizing Experience (TISSUE), a two-week medical school acclimation program at PCOM, aiming to level the playing field, to give first-year students a familiarity with anatomical concepts and applications. At the same time, the program lessens anxiety, creates camaraderie and offers practical guidance on the basic essentials of transiting into medical school. The innovative program gained her a grant from the American Osteopathic Association, the Most Promising Medical Student award from the Philadelphia Business Journal and the attention of an anonymous donor who continues to fund the course at the College.
Ms. Ackert will receive her Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree from PCOM in the spring. She received her undergraduate degree from Siena College in Albany, New York in 2016.
Founded in 1899, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine 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 offers doctoral degrees in clinical psychology, osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy and school psychology, and graduate degrees in biomedical sciences, forensic medicine, mental health counseling, organizational development and leadership, physician assistant studies, school psychology, and public health management and administration. Our 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 in inner city and rural locations. For more information, visit pcom.edu.
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