Robert E Cook Honors College Women in Medicine

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Despite the commitments of pursuing years of education, completing specialized training and practicing medicine in fields once dominated by men, alumna of the Robert E. Cook Honors College at Indiana University of Pennsylvania influence and enhance their chosen field of medicine every day.

First and foremost, I enjoy the positive impact I can have on the patient

Each day brings patients with different needs to Rebecca Pounds, who appreciates the variety of procedures, patient interaction and the business end of running her downtown Pittsburgh dental practice.

"I love going to work everyday," said Rebecca Pounds, 28, a general and cosmetic dentist and a 2001 Robert E Cook Honors College alumna from Punxsutawney. "I really enjoy the variety of things that I get to do during the day as a general dentist. I enjoy the variety of procedures that I perform. I look forward to the conversations and interactions that we have. I also enjoy the business aspect of owning my own practice. I have had to learn a lot about business in a short period of time, but I have wonderful mentors that are helping me out with a lot of this which makes learning the business side of dentistry much more enjoyable."

For Cara Ruggeri, a Resident in internal medicine at St. Luke's Hospital in Bethlehem, PA, saving lives far outweighs the pressure of balancing family commitments and a career wrought with emotional and difficult moments. "Many times you feel under-appreciated and disrespected but those times are easily forgotten," said Ruggeri, 29, a 2000 IUP alumna. "It is the times where one little thing said or done by your patient makes it all worth it, such as "You saved my life, doctor." The hardest part now is balancing career time and family time. It is a huge sacrifice one makes going into medicine."

Ruggeri, who resides in Hellertown, PA, with her husband, Joseph, expects even more challenges to that balancing act when she gives birth to her first child in May. "Besides patients commonly thinking I am their nurse instead of their doctor, I think women are very well respected in medicine," Ruggeri said. "The biggest hardship is personal, establishing priorities and balancing responsibilities. It was hard to fight the maternal instinct while pulling 36-hour shifts and having medicine constantly on the mind."

A physician in family medicine at Parkland Family Health Center in Allentown, Nicole Sully found the payoff for her many years dedicated to pursuing a career to become a doctor is the trust gained from patients. "Becoming a physician requires a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and dedication," said Sully, 29, a 2000 IUP graduate and native of Homer City, PA. "Now that I have completed my residency though, I can honestly say that my job is very rewarding. It is an awesome feeling when you know your patients trust you and depend on you for their healthcare needs."

A career in family medicine provides an ideal situation to balance family and career for Sully. She has a 10-year-old step son, Nicholas, and her husband, Ernest, is an Emergency Medicine physician at Lehigh Valley Hospital. "Family medicine is an ideal medical specialty for females because it affords the flexibility to allow a physician to work as well as raise a family," Sully explained. "Of course, it is always a challenge to balance work and family life. However, this task is quite attainable particularly in family medicine. The path is well paved for women in medicine, and I would strongly encourage anyone with an aspiration to practice medicine to strive to attain this goal."

A family medicine practice is a setting that allows Sully to really know her patients and often serve entire families.

"The thing I like most about my work is getting to know my patients well," Sully said. "Family Medicine also affords me the opportunity to see several generations of people in the same family. I love when I have babies on my schedule, and I look forward to watching them grow into adulthood. Furthermore, it is also great to receive the hugs and kisses that ultimately come my way from my elderly patients. Another aspect of my job that I really enjoy is educating my patients. I have been amazed by how genuinely interested patients typically are regarding the diseases they have."

Sully also serves as a consultant in the palliative medicine department at Lehigh Valley Hospital. "Some of my most rewarding work has come from my interactions with these patients and their families," Sully said. "Many discussions encompass end-of-life care, while others involve establishing a patient's goals of care, how they would like their medical treatment to proceed."

As a registered nurse, Jessica Fehr has a full view of the patient from diagnostic analysis through treatment and has become skilled in her personal interaction in the medical-surgical unit at Latrobe Area Hospital in Latrobe, PA. "I enjoy piecing together the medical puzzles of people's lives--which conditions are causing which symptoms, what each of a person's medications are doing and how they interact, etc.," said Fehr, 23, who resides in Blairsville, PA. "I like looking at symptoms and lab values and trying to figure out what's going on with a particular patient. And I love the personal side of things--explaining a procedure or medication to a patient, reassuring a person that what they're experiencing is normal, providing a "creature comfort" to someone who has been shuttled through a clinical environment all day."

Fehr is planning to relocate to her hometown of Baltimore this summer and obtain obstetric nursing experience, pursue a master's degree and become a nurse midwife. "I wanted to be a doctor my entire life," Fehr said. "My family has pictures of me dressed in scrubs and playing with a plastic stethoscope at the age of three. As I got older, I developed an interest in obstetrics and later decided to become a nurse-midwife."

She has been assigned to the medical-surgical unit since graduating from the IUP in May, 2006. "I wasn't sure how I would like medical-surgical nursing, especially since it's not my main field of interest," Fehr said. "I was pleasantly surprised to find that it's a much more rewarding career than I anticipated. Some days are very frustrating, and some days I can't wait to advance my career and become a nurse-midwife, but I love interacting with my patients and learning everything I can."

Yvonne Niederbracht, a 2004 alumna, had enrolled in the Ph.D. program in physical therapy and rehabilitation services at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and six months into it discovered that being a doctor would better suit her. "After attending the graduate program at Maryland for little more than half a year I knew that I yearned for patient contact and more direct feedback," said Niederbracht, 26, a native of Germany. Now pursuing a medical degree at the Westfaelische Wilhelms University Muenster in Germany, she serves as a volunteer in general patient care at the university hospital.

"First and foremost, I enjoy the positive impact I can have on the patient," Niederbracht said. "Moreover, I am thrilled by how the complexity of the human system works together, how I can understand and work with it and use this understanding to make an impact. Although I am only at the beginning of my medical training I enjoy every experience. Volunteering at the hospital, I live for the moments in which patients are being helped to return to their regular lives. Nonetheless, physicians can not always help the patient which requires them to be conscious of and able to deal with the immediacy of death as well."

A clinical dietician at Telrx in Berwick, PA, Carrie Edwards, MS, RD, LDN, has taken advantage of opportunities not limited to healthcare settings. "I have had unique opportunities working both inside and outside of healthcare," said Edwards, 27, a 2001 IUP graduate from Lehman, PA. "Although I am currently in a clinical setting, in past positions, I worked in supervisory and training roles in the customer service industry for one of the world's largest food companies. I really enjoy leading and developing others, which are experiences that can be obtained both inside and outside of the healthcare setting."

Edwards,who resides in Shickshinny, PA, with her husband, Matthew, found that dietetics provides such options that a change of setting can preempt a total career change. "Dietitians can and do work in a variety of settings," Edwards said. "If you find that the clinical healthcare setting is not a good fit for you, you may also find that it is not necessary to change careers to find something you like."

Working toward a Doctorate of Chiropractic, Anna Phillips will use her varied medical training to improve the health of her patients. "My goal is to become a competent chiropractor helping as many people as I can either by getting involved in a holistic wellness center integrating a variety of healing arts or working with athletic/sport teams," said Phillips, 24, a 2006 IUP alumna and native of Loretto, PA.

"I have always been interested in the human body, which led me to the medical field, and I get great satisfaction in helping people," Phillips said. "So the two combined fit perfectly with the field of chiropractic."

Phillips is enrolled in the doctorate chiropractic program at Logan College of Chiropractic in Chesterfield, Missouri. An educational background in life science, sports science and rehabilitation will complement her career in chiropractic care.

"I am still taking classes that are more focused in the hard sciences and have not gotten to really help people yet, but so far what I have learned and been able to do has been very rewarding. I imagine what I would like most about my work is the challenge of treating a variety of conditions and being able to help improve the lives of others."


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