Helen Kuroki, M.D.
Helen Kuroki, M.D. (Kane ’83) has a long-standing relationship with the IHM Sisters, having been taught by them from the time she was in first grade. When Kuroki received a full scholarship to Immaculata, she knew she had been extraordinarily blessed.
“My parents were not in a situation where they could have afforded a college education for their daughter with sons to send,” she said. “I’ve looked for ways to support and mentor others who may be in the same situation, because whatever the scholarship may have meant in terms of dollars, that gift was invaluable for what it meant to my life.”
Kuroki, an obstetrician/ gynecologist, is now vice president of Medical Affairs at Riddle Hospital in Media, PA, a position she refers to as a “new, brain-expanding job.” Functioning as liaison between hospital administration and medical staff, Kuroki is charged with facilitating cooperation between the two different areas to ensure clinical excellence and commitment to the success of quality initiatives.
Prior to this, Kuroki served as director of Continuing Medical Education for the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and was instrumental in creating a rapid response team that reduced the time it takes to respond to an obstetrical emergency.
As Kuroki pointed out, “The role of physician is always one of teacher. I lecture a fair amount and have taught residents and medical students along the way. But I also make sure that my patients understand and are active participants in their health care. If I’m gone tomorrow, my goal is that they can explain to someone else clearly and appropriately what’s going on with their health.”
Kuroki began thinking seriously about pursuing a life in medicine when she was a young teen volunteering as a candy striper. Though she initially contemplated becoming a nurse, Kuroki says it was the nurses she encountered who encouraged her to think about becoming a physician.
Kuroki attended Immaculata on the pre-med track with a minor in Spanish and said, “I had a great time. I made very close friends, many of whom I still count as close friends today.”
Kuroki fondly remembers her favorite instructors, referring to biology professor Sister Marian Bernard as “phenomenal,” along with Sister Jane Anne; Sister Appolonia; Pia Raffaele; Dr. Mary Dugan, and Sister Roseanne Bonfini.
“Sister Roseanne was my French teacher and she was also the president of Immaculata,” said Kuroki. “She had the most beautiful singing voice. She actually went to high school with my mother, and then I got to have her as a teacher.”
After Immaculata, Kuroki went to the University of Pennsylvania where she thought she would specialize in pediatrics. “We did a number of rotations,” she said, “and my favorite was neonatology. One of the attending physicians took me aside and told me he’d enjoyed watching me and wanted to recommend obstetrics. He said he could see me spending more of my day operating, and he thought the best combination for my skill set would be in obstetrics. No one had ever been so direct with me.”
Kuroki did some obstetric rotations and “absolutely loved it.” Coming, as she did, from women’s schools, caring for women seemed a natural step.
“I get to take care of women in health and sickness,” said Kuroki. “There are many aspects of the field, from fertility issues to infectious diseases. With cancer, for example, it requires a great deal of critical care and knowledge of internal medicine.
“I like thinking quickly on my feet,” she added. “My work is the perfect combination of intellectual challenge and compassionate care.”
After 20 years as an OB/GYN, Kuroki is now beginning to see babies she delivered return to her practice as young adults. “When they come back and ask me to take care of them–that is very rewarding for me.”
Another great joy of her work is seeing a patient through a challenging time, and then being able to hand her a healthy baby. “That I’m allowed to be there for that is a real gift.”
Kuroki and her husband, a statistician in the pharmaceutical industry, have four children, three girls and a boy, ranging in age from 14 to 21. Kuroki’s career hasn’t prevented her from volunteering as a “homeroom mother” over the years, and she and her oldest daughter have helped build houses in the Gulf Coast with Habitat for Humanity.
Not surprisingly, Kuroki takes the education and character formation of her children very seriously; she and her family moved to West Chester so that her children could be taught by the IHM Sisters at Villa Maria Academy and St. Aloysius Academy. Even Kuroki’s father has a connection to the IHM Sisters–he was an extra in the Mighty Macs movie.
“The Sisters have done great things for my family,” Kuroki said, “generation after generation.”