Rosemary Casey, M.D.

Rosemary Casey PetersonDr. Rosemary Casey Peterson ’71 knew she wanted to become a pediatrician and, after looking at a few schools, knew she wanted to attend Immaculata.

As a graduate of Villa Maria Academy, Casey described herself as “close to the heart of the Sisters.” Not only would the environment be comfortable and congenial, but Immaculata’s pre-med department had an excellent reputation.

“Sister Ann Immaculata taught us chemistry and bio-chem,” said Casey, “and there were Sister Celine and Sister Mary of Lourdes, who was president of the college at that time. Dr. Barbara Piatka was another major influence on us. We were fortunate to have quite a core of significant faculty, and we had access to them.”

Originally, Casey’s plans included only trying for admission to Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, but her professors urged her to cast a wider net. She did, was accepted to Harvard Medical School, and graduated a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society.

“We had excellent career guidance at Immaculata,” said Casey. “I launched a very successful career in academic general pediatrics.”

Casey also was strongly influenced by her childhood pediatrician who, in the forties and fifties, was a role model for academic general pediatrics. “His practice was evidence-based,” said Casey, “he was cautious with the use of antibiotics, up on the literature–he was a major factor in my decision. My career, in many ways, mirrored what I saw him do, including house calls.”

After completing a pediatric residency at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), Casey was selected to be a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1989, she established the General Pediatric Faculty Practice at CHOP and directed it until she joined Lankenau Medical Center in Wynnewood, PA in 1997.

The Lankenau office is a major teaching site for Jefferson Medical College students and for the duPont Children’s Hospital’s pediatric residents. In the last year alone, Casey was recognized with the dean’s citation for teaching contributions to Jefferson students and residents, and with the Outstanding Community Preceptor’s award from the duPont Pediatric Residency Program.

Casey is associate professor of pediatrics at Jefferson Medical College and provides primary care for children from birth to age 18 as a Main Line HealthCare physician. In 2011, she was listed as a “Top Doctor” in U.S. News and World Report.

But what Casey emphasizes about her life is the fact that she was first and foremost a mother. Her first son, Donald Robert, was born at the end of her residency; her second, James Edward, at the end of her fellowship; then she became a faculty member and had her third, Timothy Joseph, and then her daughter, Rosemary Grace, who is now a second-year medical student.

“In those days,” said Casey, “standards for maternity leaves were not as established as they are now, though I was able to work part-time until 1990, when I went back full time.”

Through it all she and pulmonologist husband, Dr. Donald Peterson, made it work. “That was the most challenging part,” she said, “keeping my balance, always trying to maintain my equilibrium while juggling those different priorities.”

Casey pointed out that she did not have “the strong mentorship that is available to women today,” and sees that as a critical factor in success. “I felt the lack of that in my career,” she said, “and it is so important.”

Whether they are professional or personal, relationships have always been a priority for Casey. “I forged lifelong friendships at Immaculata,” she said. “We just celebrated our 40th reunion last year.”

Casey also treasured her bond with the late Sister Marion Jeanne Bell. “She would come over and play with the kids when they were young,” said Casey. “She was with me in good times and bad. She became another mother to me.”

When tragedy struck and Casey’s oldest son suddenly passed away, leaving behind a young son Aidan, Sister Marion was there to embrace a grieving Casey and her family. “The Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary have been a very important part of my life.”

Not surprisingly, the most rewarding part of Casey’s work throughout the years has been “the longitudinal relationships with families and children” spanning more than three decades. There have been weddings of patients she’s known all their lives, and now “many parents are my original patients.”

Casey acknowledges that everything from changes in insurance to the tendency for families to relocate more frequently means that the experience of watching one generation of patients grow up and start their own families is not as common for physicians today.

“I still enjoy personal relationships in my practice now,” said Casey. But she knows that, for her daughter, the practice of medicine “will be better in many, many ways,” but in the area of long-standing personal connections with patients, “it will be different.”

Though she doesn’t engage in research any more, Casey intends to practice and to teach for at least another 10 years, continuing her mission of nurturing, training and mentoring the next generation.

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