Raising Awareness of Cultural Stigmas About Counseling | PCOM
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‘When the Mountain Is High, Climb It’ 
Black History Month


February 12, 2024

Kerri Newton, PHD ’21When asked about who she credits for her successes, Kerri Newton, PhD ’21, didn’t waste a moment before thanking God.

“Every day that I walk into my office, I say a prayer,” she shared. “I thank God for this opportunity and do not lose sight of the honor and responsibility I have been given.”

As an assistant professor in the Department of Counseling, Newton is aware of the many women who came before her. Humbled by the opportunity to shape future medical professionals, she tries not to put too much pressure on herself.

“I know the weight that it holds for me to be in this position,” Newton said. “I want to be as responsible as I can and thoughtful about this gift.”

She began her career as therapeutic one-to-one support, working with kids with significant behavioral challenges, and that grew into the work she does now with students at PCOM.

Kerri Newton and her mother embracingNewton’s parents instilled a strong work ethic in her from a young age, and she operates by remembering their two key pieces of advice: take advantage of every opportunity and be prepared.

“During my doctoral program, my mom told me, ‘Five years are gonna pass regardless. Either you're gonna look up and say you did it, or look back and say you could’ve done it’,” Newton shared. Her father’s belief is that opportunity and preparation will always intersect, so you have to be prepared.

“I love these two philosophies because they continue to challenge me and remind me that I have a part in my own destiny,” she said. “That carries me to this day. When I'm procrastinating or getting in my own way, I try to keep my parents in mind.”

With her family at the forefront, Newton works every day to make a difference and destigmatize mental health.

With a long history of clinical work in the field, she understands the hesitations that can exist for those seeking therapy. It’s a topic of discussion that she shares during her skills class to not only bring awareness of cultural stigmas about counseling but also demonstrate ways to support and educate those that are resistant to counseling. Which is frequently seen in the Black community.

Reasons why those in her community have overlooked counseling include “a fear of being judged or stigmatized,” as well as “keeping it to yourself and feeling like you have to have it all together.”

Kerri Newton and her PCOM colleagues“The older generations were raised to hold it together and sweep things under the rug as a way to cope and move on,” she said. “I think our generation is more open to receiving support and finally starting to entertain the idea and its benefits of bringing therapy into our personal lives.”

Although much progress is being made in the mental health space, Newton still aims to shatter her own perceived glass ceiling as a Black woman in medicine.

“I don’t want to just take up space. I want to take up meaningful space and be impactful,” she said.

“When the mountain is high, climb it because the other side is worth it, you just gotta work for it!”

Newton gives special thanks to her mom Lorettia Smith, her pop Dewight Sankey, along with Chavonne Campbell, Nana Ajani, Myson Brigerman, Dr. Lisa Corbin, Dr. Virgina “Ginny” Salzer, and the family members and friends who took part in her growth and development.

From February 1 to February 29, PCOM joins others around the country in observing Black History Month. This important celebration honors the histories, cultures and contributions of those who identify as Black or African American. At PCOM, we recognize our faculty, students and staff who identify as such and will highlight their stories throughout the month.

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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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