Residency Graduate Profile: Christina Monaco Poloni, DO '19
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Residency Graduate Profile: Christina Monaco Poloni, DO '19, RES '24 
General Surgery Residency

June 18, 2024
PCOM chief surgery resident Christina Monaco Poloni, DO '19, and her spouse smile in their regalia on Philadelphia's Broad Street.

When Christina Monaco Poloni's, DO '19, RES '24, mother, Carol, was diagnosed with terminal stage IV glioblastoma at age 41, much of the experience felt out of her control. Prior to this brain cancer diagnosis, her mother was a healthy, hardworking nurse.

“My formative years were spent alongside her going through a challenging journey of surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, complications, and ultimately loss,” Poloni said.

A career in medicine afforded the opportunity to gain back some of that sovereignty, and Poloni was inspired to help others, with compassion and understanding, during the worst situations of their lives.

Poloni moved to Philadelphia in 2013 to pursue PCOM's Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences, in hopes of being accepted for medical school. As a student at PCOM, she was a Student Government Association class representative and was involved in the Wisely Surgical Association and the Emergency Medicine Club. These groups gave her access to future mentors and skills labs, but Poloni cites someone else she met at PCOM—her husband, Dana—as one of the smartest, most hardworking people she knows.

“In 2015, in OMM class, this guy effortlessly cracked my entire spinal column. Months later, Captain Dana Martin Poloni, DO '19, became my study and life partner. We studied for every test from M2 exams to Step 1-3 to American Board of Surgery In-Training Examination (ABSITE) the last four years together. Having him in my life has inspired me to be a better surgeon as well as a better person,” she said.

PCOM's Christina Monaco Poloni and a friend laugh as they walk on PCOM's campus in their student physician white coats.

As Poloni applied to surgical programs during medical school, she felt strongly that she would be successful in her career if she continued her training with PCOM general surgery. Now a chief resident in the program, Poloni said, “the PCOM residency is a rigorous program that has an excellent, long-standing reputation of churning out knowledgeable and exceptionally skilled general surgeons in Philadelphia.”

PCOM's reputation of talented surgeons reached as far as Poloni's future fellowship at City of Hope National Medical Center in Los Angeles. During her interview, a surgical leader there said, “I don't have to ask you if you can operate. I already know you can because you're from PCOM,” Poloni said.

Poloni says that “PCOM has given me opportunities that I otherwise don't know if I would have elsewhere. PCOM accepted me into medical school and residency when I doubted myself. Here, I've been challenged to a level where I am a completely different person than I was in 2013.”

Poloni’s fellowship is in surgical oncology, and she hopes to end up at a hybrid academic/large community health center or system. She also envisions working with residents and dedicating time to clinical research.

PCOM surgery resident Christina Monaco Poloni stands in her surgery scrubs on a rooftop with the Philadelphia skyline in the background.

“I see myself starting off doing a range of surgical procedures, both cancer- and non-cancer-related, with a predominant focus on cancers within the abdomen,” she said. “I want to use my hands and knowledge to cure thousands of people from cancer. That was an incomprehensible goal to myself and others until I was accepted for a surgical oncology fellowship and became the first from PCOM in 12 years to do so in this ambitious field. PCOM is filled with big dreamers with high aspirations.”

When asked by students how to achieve success, Poloni shares the following advice:

  • You will face people around you who don't believe in you. Unfortunately, they cannot see your vision. You're not crazy; you're just first. If no one in your family has done it and none of the people around you have done it, it seems like it can't be done. You will need to drown out their doubts and your growing self doubts to keep going. Surround yourself with mentors who make your goals a reality.
  • You will know you're on the right path when your dreams terrify you and are misunderstood by others. A lot of people will stop there. You will need to jump or stay in the same spot. Every successful person has jumped.
  • I guarantee you, you will fall before you fly. You may be rejected multiple times. It will hurt. Keep going. If people are spending time to educate you, it means they care. If an attending is critical about my technique in the OR, it may be stressful in the moment, but I have to be thankful that they care and believe in me enough to take the time to train me harder.
  • You're only competing against yourself. If you waste time comparing yourself to those in other lanes, you will always be stressed out and unhappy. Discipline yourself. Grit eats talent for breakfast every time! Wake up early. Spend 10 more minutes a day out of your comfort zone. General surgery is roughly 20,000 hours on the books, but you'll need countless more in your specialty if you want to perfect your craft.
  • Take pride in small habits that define your character. One day, results will speak for themselves.
  • Pause. Don't forget on your bad days that a previous version of you couldn't wait for the opportunity to be where you are now. Be proud of yourself.
  • Own your shortcomings. Own your responsibilities. Your peers will respect your authenticity and accountability. They will follow suit.
  • The best leaders are invisible. Leadership is the ability to influence others. Lead in such a way that you create an environment where each team member is motivated to excel on their own.

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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 or call 215-871-6100.

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