Alumnae Spotlight: Kristen Danley ’04

Kristen Danley Spotlight photo

Alumnae Spotlight: Kristen Danley, Class of 2004

When choosing a career path, Kristen Danley’s advice is simple: listen to the part of you that gets excited. The Holy Child Class of 2004 alumna speaks from experience

after many a 24-hour shift at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Kristen tells us the moment she realized how much joy she gained from being around children was when she knew pediatrics was the path for her.

Those 24-hour calls were during Kristen’s medical school days and her pediatric residency. For the last three years, she has served as a primary care attending physician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) Karabots Pediatric Care Center. The clinic provides well child care, sick visits, family planning visits and social work services to an urban population with high medical and socioeconomic needs in West Philadelphia. Kristen says one of the beautiful parts of her job as a pediatrician is that it gives her the unique opportunity to not just care for children, but to stick by their side from birth to adulthood.

“There’s an unbelievable joy that comes from walking alongside children and watching them grow into dynamic, unique, colorful individuals,” Kristen says.

Kristen is not just a pediatrician, but an educator as well. Karabots is also a teaching clinic where Kristen trains medical students and pediatric residents from the University of Pennsylvania and CHOP. As she says, she’s helping to instill future doctors with empathy and compassion for their patients in addition to clinical knowledge.

Kristen became interested in medicine during high school but didn’t know any doctors. So, she started speaking up and asking who might be able to help her gain experience in the field. Opportunities presented themselves such as attending a high school science conference at Georgetown University and shadowing at an infectious disease clinic at the National Institutes of Health (NIH.) Those first forays into the world of medicine solidified her decision to study pre-med at Bucknell University with a minor in anthropology. Kristen then took a year off after college to work as a clinical research assistant before going on to medical school at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and her Pediatric Residency at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Keep reading on for more about Kristen’s career and her time at Holy Child:

What do you find rewarding about your work as a pediatrician?

“I love being a primary care pediatrician because in addition to the intellectually challenging science of medicine, I have a truly unique chance to connect with families of children from newborn to 19 years old and work with them over many years. In primary care, I have a chance to be a source of stability and resources beyond just medical care, and I’m so grateful for the amazing, hardworking families I get to see every day. There’s an unbelievable joy that comes from walking alongside children and watching them grow into dynamic, unique, colorful individuals. As a clinical educator, I also get to help instill future doctors with empathy and compassion for their patients in addition to the clinical knowledge they gain.”

Tell us about your favorite Holy Child memory.

“It’s hard to pick just one experience as so many come to mind. Acting out the storming of the Bastille in Mr. Woodard’s Western Civ. Re-writing Shakespeare scenes in Mr. Wicker’s freshman English. Fencing in sophomore PE with Mrs. Whitaker. Putting on the spring musical each year with Ms. Smith and Ms. Carlson. Researching in the library and getting book recommendations from Ms. Daly – I still have an Atul Gawande book she gave me when I graduated. The teachers at Holy Child truly fostered an environment of learning and exploration.”

Is there anything about your Holy Child experience that continues to guide you today?

“The focus on incorporating the arts into everyday life was part of what drew me to Holy Child and continues to be so important to me. I currently participate in community theater, knit, write fiction, and run a gaming group, and I even recently took up painting. The arts bring joy and balance to my life just as much now as they did during high school, and it’s never too late to try something new.”

What is your best piece of advice to a Holy Child student or alumna who is pursuing her career/dream?

“Setbacks will inevitably happen, and they don’t mean that your dream doesn’t have value. I got into med school off the waiting list, and the period of time when I had to make alternate plans helped me focus on what really drew me to medicine so I was more ready for the experience when I got there.

Listen to the part of you that gets excited. The moment when I realized that I got joy out of being around children, even if it meant staying awake for a twenty-four-hour call in the hospital, was the moment I knew pediatrics was right for me.

And perhaps most importantly, pay attention to the mentors and teachers who help you along the way. Think about what they did to make a positive learning environment, or help you during a difficult time, or connect with the people around them, and be that person for someone else. We can all help create a culture of compassion and inclusivity and patience, one interaction at a time.”

Spotlight written by Liz Palka Minukas '04

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