Search

Celebrating Women Leaders in Medicine

594

As the largest medical school in the nation, Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) has been at the fore front of developing many of the region’s top leaders in healthcare—including osteopathic medicine, dentistry, podiatry, pharmacy and health services administration—for more than 30 years.

At its main campus in Erie, Pennsylvania and branch campuses in Greensburg, PA; Elmira, New York; and Bradenton, Florida; LECOM has been committed to admitting the most qualified candidates regardless of gender since its founding in 1992 and charter class in 1993.

By actively promoting a fair-yet-rigorous selection process and providing medical education at an affordable cost, LECOM has not only paved the way for women in leadership positions but also has been instrumental in breaking gender barriers in various medical specialties, ensuring that its more than 16,000 graduates — men and women — have equal access to leadership opportunities. This commitment to fairness creates an environment where individuals are evaluated based on their skills, experience and capabilities — a belief shared by Andrew Taylor Still, the father of osteopathic medicine. Still, who pioneered the concept “wellness” by treating the whole body rather than just the symptoms, taught classes at the American School of Osteopathy in Missouri back in 1892 that included men and women — well ahead of the time.

Today, women are a major part of the medical community and are seizing more opportunities to lead each year. One of the major factors has been access to medical education and mentorship available at academic centers, particularly LECOM, which provides student-centered pathways to prepare the next generation of health-care professionals.

Silvia Ferretti, D.O., has been a trailblazer for women in medicine as provost, senior vice president and dean of Academic Affairs at LECOM.

VISIONARYLEADERSHIP

Provost, Senior Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs Silvia Ferretti, D.O., is a visionary administrator at LECOM, leading the institution and inspiring countless individuals, especially women in medicine. Ferretti’s remarkable contributions and achievements distinguish her as a leader and role model in the field.

When LECOM opened in 1993, Ferretti became the first female dean of an osteopathic medical college. The college trustees promoted Ferretti to provost as LECOM expanded to include a School of Pharmacy. She also is a clinical professor of Internal Medicine/Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at LECOM.

Previously, Ferretti was chief of rehabilita- tion at Great Lakes Rehabilitation Hospital in Erie and taught at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine where she earned her Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine Degree. She completed her internship at the Hospital of Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, and subsequently, a residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

When Ferretti attended medical school in the 1970s, she was one of 10 women in her class of 200 students — the beginning of a transition to an increased number of women entering the medical field in the ‘80s. Some specialties, which were male-dominated fields when Ferretti attended medical school, are now female-dominated fields, including OB/ GYN and pediatrics. “A host of reasons facilitates and precipitates any transition, but those who sought active leadership roles have drawn more women into the field. Indeed, those whose passion to work in this noble calling transcend gender, and the visibility of women in the calling is now patently evident,” Ferretti expounds.

In 2024, LECOM’s enrollment is repre- sentative of the rise of women seeking to enter the medical profession. The student body is more than 50 percent female, with more than 60 percent of women enrolled in pharmacy and dentistry programs.

“Why?” asks Ferretti. “Because we paid a lot of attention to STEM — science, technology engineering, mathematics — to get women interested in health sciences.”

Strong role models and mentors have also played a significant role. Ferretti credits her drive to be a leader in medicine to her parents. “One’s foundation is essential,” explains the LECOM leader. “The famed adage affirms, ‘as the twig is bent, so grows the tree,’ ” she clarifies. “My foundation as a child was strong; my parents were loving and caring, and they knew the value of education, hard work, determination and responsibility. From them, I learned not to shy away from the opportunities in life that build character and knowledge.”

Ferretti has since reached the pinnacle of her profession and has received numerous awards for her many contributions. She is one of the distinguished women in Pennsylvania to earn the coveted Distinguished Daughters of PA Award and most recently, the Robert A. Kistner Award from the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) Board of Deans, which is presented annually to an individual in recognition of their significant contributions to osteopathic medical education throughout their careers.

Ferretti notes that the LECOM students form the basis of her motivation in her life’s work. “Many of our students are first-generation physicians; some are new to this country and have hard-working parents who, like the LECOM scholar him or herself, dreams of their child’s success. To me, that dream of the possible is always very exciting. The ability to help students reach their potential is uplifting to me. When our scholars succeed, I succeed,” beams the LECOM provost.

LECOM is leading the way when it comes to women in leadership. Shown here are (from left) Sarah McCarthy, Ph.D., director of Directed Study Pathway, and Danielle Hansen, D.O., M.S. (Med Ed), MHSA, vice president of Behavioral Health at Millcreek Community Hospital (MCH), and medical director for Medical Associates of Erie.

EDUCATION THAT EMPOWERS

LECOM has witnessed many of its women graduates excelling in various medical specialties. Playing a critical role in their education, training and career has been the health system, LECOM Health, and other partner organizations, giving medical professionals the chance to learn and lead.

Danielle Hansen, D.O., M.S. (Med Ed), MHSA, earned her medical degree from LECOM in 2005, and is a specialist in internal medicine and geriatrics with the LECOM Institute for Successful Aging and Medical Associates of Erie. Hansen is vice president of Behavioral Health at Millcreek Community Hospital (MCH), and medical director for Medical Associates of Erie.

She completed her residency and fellowship training in geriatric medicine at MCH and holds a certificate of Added Qualifications in Geriatric Medicine. She is also board certified by the American College of Osteopathic Internists. She received her Master of Science in Medical Education from LECOM and was among the first graduates to earn LECOM’s Master in Health Services Administration degree.

The Wisconsin native says it was in high school that she decided she wanted to be a physician, despite her guidance counselor suggesting that she “just become a nurse.” She started at LECOM’s Erie campus in 2001.

At LECOM, Hansen got to experience medical school while also being a new mother. She gave birth to her oldest child during the end of her second year of medical school, and ended up creating a Dr. Mommies Group, which met up monthly for playdates and to share their experiences. “My classmates were supportive and so were faculty as I navigated that time,” she says. In fact, when it came time to pick a Halloween costume, her young son thought he couldn’t be a doctor because he thought “only women were doctors,” she laughs.

Hansen also was one of the only female residents for the first few years. At that time, she worked with John Ferretti, D.O, president of LECOM Health, who offered her the chance to stay within the health system following the completion of her residency. “The opportunity was so remarkable in that it wasn’t just to be able to practice medicine, but it was to have a leadership role,” she says.

As a leader, Hansen has been able to make an impact on the health-care professionals behind her. “I hope that the students, especially those that rotate with me, see that there are a lot of opportunities and that they can tailor their career path to be able to fulfill those interests and needs,” she says.

LECOM has one of the top Pharmacy programs. Shown here are (from left) Katie Zboyovski, Pharm.D., Pharmacy faculty and LECOM alum, and Rachel Ogden, Pharm.D., M.S. (Med Ed), MHSA, BCGP, dean of the School of Pharmacy.

PROMINENT WOMEN FACULTY

LECOM boasts a strong contingent of accomplished female faculty members who serve as role models for aspiring medical professionals. These women contribute not only to the academic and research excellence of the institution but also play a crucial role in inspiring the next generation of women in medicine.

As dean of the LECOM School of Pharmacy since 2020, Rachel Ogden, Pharm.D., M.S. (Med Ed), MHSA, BCGP, exemplifies how LECOM is not only encouraging women to enter leadership roles but also providing the necessary support for its future pharmacists to thrive.

Ogden earned her Bachelor of Pharmacy degree from Duquesne University and a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree from the University of Florida. She also earned Master of Science in Medical Education (M.S. Med Ed) and Master of Health Services Administration (M.H.S.A.) degrees, both from LECOM.

Prior to coming to LECOM, she served as the director of Pharmacy for Grove City Medical Center and was executive director of a long-term care consulting company. It was when she started working as a consulting pharmacist at Millcreek Manor (now LECOM’s Institute for Successful Aging) that she was given the opportunity to work in academia.

She joined LECOM in June 2008 and has served as associate dean of the School of Pharmacy since 2011. “I was so passionate about the elderly that I wanted to really teach pharmacy students about how to care appropriately for the elderly,” she says.

As dean, Ogden plays a pivotal role in shaping the institution’s academic direction in its pharmacy program, which encompasses operations at the Erie and Bradenton, Florida, campuses, and within the Distance Education pathway.

“We are innovators, and one of the things that we developed in 2014 was a Distance Education pathway because we wanted to reach students who maybe didn’t have an opportunity to come to a live campus, but still wanted to pursue a career in pharmacy,” she says.

The Distance Education pathway has a combination of both synchronous and asynchronous learning, meaning some of it is independent study — ideal for those who want flexibility. This year, almost 70 percent of the applicants are women.

LECOM’s Preclinical Education program gives students a solid foundation for their future as medical practitioners. Shown here are (from left) Christine Kell, Ph.D., dean of Preclinical Education emeritus, and Nancy Carty, Ph.D., director of the Master of Medical Science Program and assistant dean of Preclinical Education.

Diverse program offerings have been critical to LECOM’s success and to attracting top students and faculty. As director of LECOM’s Master of Medical Science Program and assistant dean of Preclinical Education, Nancy Carty, Ph.D., is passionate about developing medical education scholars.

A native of central Pennsylvania who earned her doctorate at Texas Tech University, Carty has been a faculty member at LECOM for the past 14 years. She came to LECOM to teach about infectious disease in 2010.

In 2019, Carty took over the Master of Medical Science Program, a graduate school program that serves as a bridge for students who are hoping to move on to professional school — a dental school, pharmacy school or osteopathic medical school or perhaps even podiatry.

“Graduates can apply anywhere in the country to go to school, but the majority of them stay here, she says.

According to Carty, LECOM wants to set its students up for educational and career success, and that extends to its faculty as well.

“We’re fortunate because LECOM really allows for faculty development, for faculty to learn how to better teach how to become leaders,” Carty says. “It’s really about finding your niche. What do you like? Do you like community service? Do you like working with the geriatric population? Do you like doing research? We have faculty who do what they are passionate about, and I think we’re lucky that we get to do that.”

LECOM supports ongoing training and development for its faculty. Shown here are (from left) Jennifer Coughlin,
D.O., director of History and Physical Examination, Melodie Chludzinski, D.O., assistant clinical director of the Primary Care Scholars, and Stephany Esper, D.O., professor of Family Medicine and Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine.

PREPARING THE NEXT GENERATION OF LEADERS

LECOM recognizes the importance of preparing future health-care leaders, providing them with the skills, knowledge and confidence needed to excel in leadership roles.

Most recently, student doctor Khin Oo, a third-year medical student in Erie, was awarded the LECOM Erie 2024 Student Doctor of the Year.

LECOM continues to prepare the next generation of women leaders in the field of medicine. Shown here is Khin Oo, LECOM Erie’s 2024 Student Doctor of the Year.

Oo is actively involved in student organizations and as a next-generation medical leader. Nationally, she serves as the second vice chair of the Council of Osteopathic Student Government Presidents, primarily focusing on Mental Health Wellness for student doctors. At the state level, she serves on the Pennsylvania Osteopathic Medical Association Mentor Task Force. In 2024, she will represent LECOM Erie for the National Student Doctor of the Year.

By supporting and training rising stars like Oo and others, LECOM stands as a shining example of an institution dedicated to breaking down barriers. Through a commitment to equal opportunities, LECOM has created an environment where women can thrive, contribute meaningfully to medicine, and assume leadership roles with confidence.

“It is my hope that each successful scholar-graduate keeps an open mind to pay forward our mission to help others succeed,” Ferretti says. “We gave them a chance. People gave me a chance. In whichever health-care field they choose, I hope that each one of our graduates seeks to elevate the profession to new heights; and that our accomplished alumni remember the opportunities that they were given by helping others to achieve.”

For more information about LECOM, visit lecom.edu.