Bernadette DeArmond, M.D., M.P.H.
Bernadette Naughton DeArmond’s career in medicine has led from private practice in pediatrics to public health administration to industry.
But when DeArmond first entered Immaculata in the early sixties, she was not sure in what direction her interest in science would lead her. As a biology major, DeArmond unearthed a love for botany, and she fondly remembers “Sister Rosita and her greenhouse.”
“Immaculata was academically rigorous,” said DeArmond, who graduated in 1966. “Sister Celine in comparative anatomy was the big hurdle. She was excellent and very demanding. I remember taking my practical exam and my hand shaking as I held the probe and pointed to the different parts of the bone. Once you got through her class, medical school anatomy was a breeze.”
When DeArmond returned to Immaculata years later for a visit, “Sister Celine remembered me by name. She was one of the teachers in my life who changed my life.”
Another significant influence was Basketball Coach Jenepher Schillingford, “before the Mighty Macs became mighty.” Schillingford’s husband was a pediatrician, and she would bring her two children to practices, letting the players babysit.
“She was a role model for women who were working and raising a family,” said DeArmond. “She stands out as someone who expressed by her example the notion that, ‘Yeah, it’s tough, but you can do this.’”
Immaculata also provided DeArmond with the chance to explore many different fields and ideas. “I almost became a botanist, but I was also interested in marine biology.”
DeArmond admitted that part of her decision to attend medical school was driven by the fact that, “I couldn’t picture what the day-to-day life of a botanist or marine biologist would be, but I knew what physicians did.”
DeArmond was accepted to Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1966 and was a member of the last all-female graduating class of the school, which then became the Medical College of Pennsylvania.
“Mine was a very diverse class,” said DeArmond. “There were lots of last-minute decision makers, and my classmates included former nurses, a pianist, even a professional race car driver.”
DeArmond did a residency there in general pediatrics, then a fellowship in pediatric habilitation at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia.
“I wanted to go into public health,” said DeArmond and, when she met the woman who was then head of public health in New Jersey, “I poured my heart out to her.”
The woman’s response was not what DeArmond expected. “She told me I would be a disaster. She said that no one should go into an administrative field without first practicing medicine because then, when you do become an administrator, you know what the reality is. It was the best career advice I’d ever received.”
DeArmond, who had two children by this time, began practicing pediatrics, pediatric neurology and habilitation, and family medicine in a children’s hospital, community clinics and private practice, eventually moving from Pennsylvania to California.
In 1983, DeArmond moved into public health with the Santa Clara County Health Department, where she directed county programs for communicable disease control, immunizations, and sexually transmitted disease clinics, initiating community education programs and county diagnostic centers for HIV infections.
“What I like about public health is that it’s the ‘big picture,’ looking at ideas that are going to affect large numbers of people,” said DeArmond. “I started in public health at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, and I was recruited to industry to help with the development of drugs to be used for people with HIV.”
In 1995, DeArmond was one of the four founders of Pacific Research Associates, Inc. in Mountain View, CA. Five years later when that firm was acquired by ICON Clinical Research, she assisted in its integration and, as senior vice president, created and directed a new Early Phase and International Consulting Unit (EPIC), providing multiple services related to Phase I and II studies and assistance with FDA interactions.
Today, through DeArmond and Associates, she provides medical consultation and clinical development support to U.S. and international pharmaceutical, medical device and biotechnology firms, and academic medical centers.
When she’s not working, DeArmond spends her time helping to care for her three-year-old and 20-month-old grandchildren. She volunteers as an instructor at the Reconstruction Zone, a fitness center she and her daughter launched (now run by the Y). She is also a volunteer clinical adviser to students at Stanford School of Medicine and a volunteer research associate at the University of California, San Francisco.
Over the course of her career, DeArmond was involved in the development of drugs, from those as widely known and used as Aleve to those such as Cytovene, used to treat cytomegalovirus retinitis in transplant recipients, and CellCept, an immunosuppressant used for the prevention and treatment of allograft rejection in renal transplantation.
According to DeArmond, “That’s what’s really rewarding—to think of products that are available and on the market today and to know that I played a part in getting them there.”