Dyanne Westerberg, D.O.
Dr. Dyanne Westerberg (Pergolino) ’79 is chief of Family and Community Medicine at Cooper University Hospital in Camden, NJ. She is also founding chair and assistant professor at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, as well as adjunct assistant professor at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School where she is finishing her role as vice chair in Family Medicine and Community Health.
Westerberg manages a multi-million dollar budget and supervises 16 physicians and a 42-member staff. Yet she is quick to point out, “I wouldn’t be where I am today without Immaculata.”
Westerberg first became aware of Immaculata when her sister—the first in the family to attend college—entered the school when Westerberg was just 6 years old. “It was amazing to me that someone in my family was going to college,” said Westerberg, whose sister loved Immaculata and shared her enthusiasm.
When Westerberg was a senior in high school, circumstances were very different. “My father was dying,” she said, and he was deeply grieved that he did not have the means to send her to Immaculata. Providence intervened, however, and Westerberg received notification that she had been awarded a full scholarship, just days before her father passed. “My mother said that he was able to be at peace then,” said Westerberg, who, both grieving and grateful, wept through her high school graduation.
On that profoundly poignant note, Westerberg began a personal and professional journey that would take her places she never imagined. “I lived in Villa and I got to meet a lot of girls and we formed a group that still gets together once a year. For years, it used to be the Saturday after Thanksgiving. When we turned 50, we all went to Hilton Head. This past year we spent a weekend in Cape May.”
According to Westerberg, her classmates played a significant role in her burgeoning interest in medicine. “I met girls at Immaculata who wanted to be doctors, so they encouraged me to do some volunteer work with them. We would go to Southern Chester County Hospital and wash instruments and watch surgeries.”
Westerberg also remembers Dr. Mary Dugan, her physical chemistry professor. “One night she had us out to dinner at her home, and after dinner we sat around the table and did physical chemistry problems.”
Westerberg talks of “Dr. Barbara Piatka and Sister Marian Bernard, my biology advisor who worked with me in the lab.”
Westerberg insists, “I got an A in organic chemistry because of Immaculata.”
Once Westerberg decided she wanted to go to medical school, her choice of what kind of medicine to practice and where to go was influenced by her family doctor, an osteopathic physician. “He did a lot of mentoring of me, and he encouraged me to apply.”
Westerberg attended the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, interned at Delaware Valley Medical Center, completed her residency in family medicine at the Metropolitan Hospitals System, and a fellowship at Michigan State University in research and faculty development.
“Medical school was fine,” said Westerberg. “It was different suddenly having men in my class, so it was a little unnerving at first.” But she admitted, “Cadaver lab was the hardest part.”
After a few years in private practice with staff privileges at Crozer-Chester Medical Center, Westerberg worked in Student Health Services at the University of Delaware where her main area of interest was treating students with eating disorders, and at Christiana Care Health System where she was, in addition to other responsibilities, director of osteopathic medical education and associate director of the Family Medicine Residency Program.
Today, Westerberg, who has been named a “Top Doc” several years in a row by both South Jersey and SJ magazines, is busy teaching students and residents, involved in curriculum development, and has had her latest article—this one on diabetic ketoacidosis—accepted by American Family Physician. She is working on the development of an automated substance abuse referral system; in charge of eight family medicine offices throughout Camden, Burlington and Gloucester counties; she teaches at Temple Podiatry School, and is active with the National Osteopathic Board of Medical Examiners.
Westerberg also leads community activities, ranging from osteoporosis workshops to parenting classes for single mothers, and she works with a charter school, the LEAP Academy, associated with Rutgers University.
“There’s a problem with childhood obesity,” said Westerberg, “so we try to address that. We promote dental care and try to teach dental hygiene. Most of the parents of the youngsters are from Puerto Rico or Mexico, so we teach these families how to navigate the health care system.
“Our medical students also hold clinics for the area’s indigent population,” added Westerberg, “and I am involved in those clinics, as well.”
Westerberg periodically teaches classes on puberty and disordered eating at her daughter’s former elementary school, and she and her husband of 29 years, Paul, have co-taught Sunday school for many years.
Westerberg has three daughters: Carolynne, 17; Emily, 23, who is in retail sales; and Jessica, 25, who is following in her mother’s footsteps at PCOM.
Ever the dedicated mother-physician-educator, Westerberg helps her daughter as only she can. “We have little study sessions now that she’s getting ready for her boards. Every night I e-mail her medical questions and she has to come up with a differential diagnosis and treatment program.”
Puts a whole new spin on mother-daughter quality time, and Westerberg wouldn’t have it any other way.