Meet the Dean December 10, 2018
Robert A. DiTomasso, PhD, ABBP
Robert A. DiTomasso, PhD, ABBP has been a member of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) faculty since 1995. Initially, he served as vice-chair and director of clinical research
in the Department of Psychology, and in 2004 was named department chair. He assumed
the role of dean of the newly formed PCOM School of Professional and Applied Psychology on Sept. 1. He also serves as director of institutional outcomes assessment for the College.
Dr. DiTomasso has extensive experience in cognitive behavioral therapy, graduate-level
teaching in psychology, graduate medical education, research and outcomes assessment, psychological research/program evaluation, psychometrics/test
development and psychological consultation in medical settings. He is board certified
in clinical psychology by the American Board of Professional Psychology, a Fellow
of the Academy of Clinical Psychology, a Founding Fellow of the Academy of Cognitive
Therapy, and a licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
What is your vision for the PCOM School of Professional and Applied Psychology?
I felt that the mission and vision of the School needed to be derived from input from
the faculty, directors, chairs and staff. Last fall we had a retreat and talked about
the common values across all of our programs. This was a very fruitful exercise.
I'll share with you basically what I've distilled from that: our mission is to train
empirically based, competent, practitioner scholars in the cognitive behavioral tradition,
and to train leaders of change from a systems perspective, all in an integrative,
collaborative model which embraces individual and cultural diversity, a commitment
to serving the underserved and a commitment to advocacy.
In terms of a vision, we will strive to become the model school of excellence for
those individuals seeking cutting-edge, high-quality graduate education and training
in professional and applied psychology. We’ll achieve all of this through dedication,
innovation, inclusiveness, leadership, collaboration and mentorship.
The other thing I’ll say is that the School of Professional and Applied Psychology
operates from the osteopathic philosophy, so we recognize that the health of each component of PCOM is intertwined and affects
the health of all the other components. There is a lot of interdependence, and we're
all invested in helping each other, regardless of specialty area or discipline.
What initially drew you to the field of psychology?
When I was in high school, I took a religion course with a guy who I realized later
was a family therapist at the Philadelphia Child Guidance Center. He had us reading
all of these interesting books on psychology that sort of ignited my interest, and
then when I applied to college, really there was nothing else that I wanted to do
but to help people. Later, that morphed into training people to help people. That's
how I got into doing what I would ultimately spend my life doing.
For about 19 years, I was the associate director for behavioral medicine at a family
medicine residency. I was the only psychologist there. We trained family doctors,
much like we're doing here, and it’s actually what drew me to PCOM, because I was
at the point where I was training physicians at a community-based, University of Pennsylvania-affiliated
site, and I really enjoyed the idea of training psychologists to do what I was doing.
That's how I got into it.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I would say, first and foremost, that my approach to leadership is relationship-focused.
What that means to me is valuing our faculty, our staff and our students, every day,
for the contributions they make. We can’t succeed without each other. My experience
has been that you can’t effectively deliver a good product—in this case, education
and training—unless you have people working collaboratively and who are engaged.
I also think my style could be described as democratic—more creative solutions emerge
when you have diverse opinions, so I seek input from people in identifying problems
and making sound decisions.
I would also say that I see myself as kind of a consultant to help people including
chairs, directors and faculty to figure out what to do in preventing and solving problems
in an effective and efficient manner. I try to guide people in the right direction.
They may come to me and say, “I have this problem,” and the first thing I’ll say is,
“What do you think? How do you think we should try to solve this?”
Finally, I think good leaders are good followers. Good leaders serve those whom they
lead, and good leaders role-model as well. I feel that approach creates a truly collaborative,
team-oriented, engaging and pleasant working environment. And thanking people for
what they do—I think that's an incredibly important thing that sometimes doesn't happen
enough. Do we express our appreciation for each other? I really try to.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
One of my early mentors was actually a primary care physician that I worked with in
the West Jersey Health System Family Medicine Residency, and I learned a great deal
about primary care from him. His name was S. Thomas Carter, Jr., MD. One thing about
Tom was that he was charismatic; people really enjoyed working with him, and he had
great interpersonal skills. He never explicitly said it, but he showed me that there
was great value and importance in building and maintaining sound relationships and
in appreciating those around you. Tom passed away several years ago but I have never
forgotten the life lessons I learned from him.
After Tom retired and before I left there, I took a hanger that he used to hang his
white coat on every day. I still have it in my closet here in the office, and I hang
my coat on it every day. It serves as a link to him and a reminder of how I aspire
to be a leader like he was.
What’s one thing that people at PCOM might not know about you?
I come from a long line of musicians—in my extended family, there were about 62. My
older daughter sings, jazz mostly, out in Las Vegas. My grandfather had his own orchestra—his
name was Umberto Macera—and they went by the name the Al Macer Orchestra. There was
prejudice against immigrant groups then, too, so he wanted to sound like he was from
here. But, you would talk to him for two minutes and realize he wasn’t from this country.
I also played the saxophone, many years ago.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love music. I’ve been to so many concerts over the years—in fact, I just went to
see the Electric Light Orchestra and The Brooklyn Bridge [in November]. They were
absolutely phenomenal. I’ve seen Billy Joel, Tina Turner, The Commodores, Todd Rundgren,
Earth, Wind and Fire, Fleetwood Mac—so many. That’s how I relax. I like to look up
all the ridiculous little trivia facts about bands—I’m like the search engine for
What books have you read recently?
Most of my reading has been more academic as of late, mostly because of our focus
on integrated care—primary care and behavioral health. Two books come to mind: one
called “Integrated Behavioral Health and Primary Care,“ and the other called “Behavioral
Consultation and Primary Care: A Guide to Integrating Services.“
What’s one of your proudest moments?
Of course, personally, it would be marrying my wife and the birth of my two daughters.
Professionally, I’m honored to be able to do what I do every day. There are proud
moments being nurtured here every day. Every time a student meets a program milestone
or graduates, these are proud moments for me.
I'm very honored to be chosen as the founding dean of this new school, and what's
important to me is that I can contribute to the College in this way. I want to secure
our place on the national scene. We have some important things to say, and one of
them is that through our integration into primary care, we’re training the behavioral
health practitioners of the future.
What is your favorite part about your position?
If I had to pick one thing, I would say it’s the mentoring. That’s why we exist—we
exist for our students. In hiring, it is easy to find candidates who have the academic
and clinical background to technically do the job of teaching, but if you can’t be
passionate about mentoring and helping our students, then, this is not the place for
Sometimes we may lose sight of the fact that there are things we do and say that can
have a dramatic influence on someone, at least from their standpoint, and we don't
even think much about it, you know? I had a graduate from 2005 recently tell me that
something I mentioned in passing to her that had a significant impact on her finishing
That's the delicate part of what we do. We're dealing with people who want to help
people. One of the ways that they learn to help people is by us helping them. And,
I'm a basic helper at heart. I help anybody with anything, and I derive a lot of pleasure
out of doing that.
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Founded in 1899, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) has trained thousands
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