Kathleen Costanzo, DO, is a family medicine and sports medicine physician at Saint Vincent Family Medicine Center in Erie, Pa. Dr. Costanzo is also a faculty physician at Saint Vincent’s Family Practice Residency Program. In July 2018, she will assume the role of director of the Osteopathic Focus Track at the Saint Vincent Residency Program.
Recently, Kathleen Costanzo, DO – a family and sports medicine physician in Erie, Pa. and winner of PAMED’s Everyday Hero Award for April 2018 – had what she called “the absolute best day.”
She began her workday by treating a newborn baby and ended the day caring for a 98-year-old patient. For a family physician who loves treating a full spectrum of patients and conditions, it doesn’t get any better than that.
Dr. Costanzo’s path to becoming a physician was more unconventional than most. She was an athlete in high school, and that experience led her to choose a career as a physical therapist.
At age 30, after realizing she was looking for a more extensive role in patient care, she began medical school at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM). Osteopathy, with its whole-person philosophy, offered the perfect blend of medicine for her.
“Family medicine chose me,” Dr. Costanzo says when talking about how she decided to specialize in primary care. She was diagnosed with lymphoma during medical school and had to undergo six rounds of chemotherapy while still in school.
Her diagnosis didn’t stop her from achieving her goal of becoming a physician. To continue her treatment, though, Dr. Costanzo needed to remain in Erie while completing her medical school rotations. She was able to see patients in sub-acute hospital settings where there were fewer health risks for her. That experience, along with her interest in treating a breadth of conditions, led her to family medicine.
Now, she brings her unique perspective to her work with medical residents at Saint Vincent’s Family Practice Residency Program. Timothy Pelkowski, MD, who nominated Dr. Costanzo for the award, says, “She is dedicated to patient care and will routinely go above and beyond the call of duty to help the patients she is treating and the family medicine residents she is educating.”
Dr. Costanzo wants her residents to get the most out of their residency. She keeps an eye out for physicians who may be struggling with personal challenges and tries to make sure they have the help and resources they need. “They all know they can come to me about anything,” she says. If someone in the program is having a bad day, she’s there to talk or text and offer support. `
A natural curiosity about the world has made Dr. Costanzo a compassionate doctor as well as a mentor to her younger colleagues. It has also led her to new opportunities to use her skills as a physician. While she was practicing for a time in York, Pa., Dr. Costanzo got the opportunity of a lifetime. With the encouragement of a colleague, she became a team physician for USA Weightlifting.
“It is a natural fit for me,” she says of her role with USA Weightlifting. Due to the repetitive nature of the sport, the athletes benefit from having access to an osteopathic physician.
She’s had the chance to work with and travel with the team to far-flung places like Poland and the former Soviet republic of Georgia. This summer, Dr. Costanzo will serve as the Medical Director for USA Weightlifting’s National Championships and, in the fall, will be a Team USA physician for the Youth Olympic Games.
No matter what her endeavor, Dr. Costanzo is willing to give everything she has. That quality hasn’t gone unnoticed by her colleagues. “Kathleen is lighthearted, fun to work with, engaging, and quick to smile,” says Dr. Pelkowski.
It seems likely that there will be plenty more “absolute best days” on the horizon for Dr. Costanzo.